Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

For the sake of ornament and illumination.

Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:05 am

PONTOON!, by Charles Carreon

[This is an imaginary book review of a book I didn't have time to write, from the era of the "towering blockbusters" with one-word names like "Inferno." My apocalyptic vision was tamed by the idea that "it is an ill wind indeed that blows no good for anyone." The greenhouse effect was talked about 22 years ago, although its scientific credibility was questioned as part of the delaying action to forestall positive environmental change. Thus, it seemed likely (and still does) that at some point humans will become much more interested in the ocean, particularly as it swallows up land-based encampments. I have always had a fondness for female heroines, and thus chose Naia Oceanfoam as my protagonist, borrowing her name from the famous Diana Naiad, who had just swum the English Channel, and unbeknownst to me, was being repeatedly challenged to a wrestling match by the increasingly deranged Andy Kaufman on SNL. The only thing I didn't like about Andy. So if anybody wants to write this book, have at it. I waive all claims.]

What happens to human society when the greenhouse effect melts the polar icepack and the rising oceans drown the world's coastlines, reducing livable areas on an already crowded earth? People build floating cities that span the seas, and harness the tides as their central source of energy. Whaling comes to a complete halt, and inter-cultural interchange with dolphins becomes commonplace, as people with audio implants in their scuba gear float in underwater amphitheatres while enjoying Cetacean operettas. Children learn to swim at the age of six weeks, get strong on algae steak and whale milk (obtained by the tankerload from mothers who lose their calves). Sound too good to be true? Don't worry, there's a hitch.

Some unknown force is destroying these floating utopias, leaving behind little more than wave-borne debris. The world government has no leads on the culprits at all; nevertheless, pockets of anti-cetacean bigotry are flaring up among groups of homosapien right-wingers. Naia Oceanfoam, a genetically engineered, amphibious woman and an agent for OCIS (Ocean Intelligence Service, a super-secret arm of the World Government) is given the job of uncovering the evidence that will bring the culprits to justice. In the company of her dolphin friend, Kirikitik, she sets out from her lagoon chalet on the island of Maui, hot on the trail of the saboteurs. It's a tricky job for Naia and Kirikitik, and a thrilling ride for readers as we follow them through their watery world on the trail of a gang of sinister terrorists, whose goal seems to be to destroy cooperation between water and earth-borne mammals.

(June/July, 1981, Issue 31, "More Than Food," Ashland, Oregon)
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Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:07 am

THE BRANDON MAYFIELD CASE ESTABLISHES THE OBVIOUS UNCONSTITUTIONALITY OF PATRIOT ACT SNEAK-SEARCHES, by Charles Carreon

04/10/05:

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During early 2004, a young Portland Oregon lawyer named Brandon Mayfield had his life turned upside down when the FBI arrested him and put him in secret confinement for a couple of weeks, until it finally allowed his wife to know where he was. The charges were "terrorism," and the grounds were that the FBI, in responding to a Spanish request for assistance to seek a digital match of a fingerprint found on a piece of plastic connected to the Madrid train bombings, had discovered a match with Mr. Mayfield. Supposedly they then discovered that Mr. Mayfield was married to a Muslim woman, had converted to Islam, and had represented Jeffrey Battle, one of the poor dunderheads who got thrown in jail as terrorists because their blood got hot and they went off to Pakistan to pretend to do jihad. Battle went to jail, but Mr. Mayfield had nothing to do with that aspect of Battle's life -- he had represented Battle only in a child custody dispute. The FBI plowed ahead with its case, even though Mr. Mayfield was a former Air Force JAG Corps lawyer, had never been to Spain, and the Spanish police were not supporting their forensic analysis. Shortly after the election of Zapatero as the new Spanish President, the government released Mr. Mayfield when the Spanish announced they had arrested the man whose fingerprint the FBI claimed was Mr. Mayfield's.

Eventually the charges were dropped and Mr. Mayfield actually got an apology from the FBI. During his confirmation hearings, Alberto Gonzales admitted that the Patriot Act provisions had been used in Mr. Mayfield's case.

As an Oregon lawyer, the case scared the bejeezus out of me, especially when I learned that one of the facts in the affidavit true of Mr. Mayfield was also true of me! For Mayfield's wife had once made a phone call to an Ashland man named Pete Seda, a long-time Ashland resident who was my friend dating back to 1982, when I tutored him in the English lab at SOU. He was a dyslexic Arab, which is really difficult, since they read their books from back to front. So reading English was hell for him, and I'd sit and compose his essays on the typewriter while he talked out his thoughts. It was fun, and he was very intelligent and unconventional. Well, Pete is now being charged, much to the disgust of all of us in Ashland, with some kind of terrorist claim involving his receipt of funds from a now-denounced Islamic charity. So I knew Pete well, and talked with him about his fear of persecution after 911. Indeed, I went to a redneck gas station with him one afternoon in 2002, and we collected some nasty glares. Bottom line, though, Pete Seda had been a forest protection activist back in the eighties and nineties. Then he became an Islamic peace activist, and never advocated or contemplated violence for an instant. He worked day and night at his business, The Arborist, and loved his work of caring for trees. The fact that he has had to leave the country with his family is really just a pogrom in our little town.

But back to Mr. Mayfield. Obviously, if they bothered to add the fact that his wife once called Pete Seda to the affidavit they submitted to Federal Judge Bob Jones to justify secretly jailing Mr. Mayfield, then two things must be true: (1) The US Attorney engaged in a huge slander of Pete Seda in order to imply that Mr. Mayfield's wife's call to him was in any way inappropriate, and (2) The US Attorney must have been might short on real evidence to justify the secret arrest, because calling Pete Seda is something that thousands and thousands of people have done without criminal intent. Nevertheless, Judge Jones signed the order, and directed that a man be delivered to the tender mercies of the government "intelligence" apparatus.

Looking back at fact number two -- the lack of evidence to levy against Mr. Mayfield that is implied by the use of flimsy slanders against an Ashland Islamic peace activist to suggest wrongful conduct on the part of Mr. Mayfield – we might consider what they had access to. Well, most cops don’t get to search someone’s house at all, but under the Patriot Act, they can do it secretly. This creates potential for a conversation like this:

Mr. Mayfield: (Dialing 911) Hello, 911, I have a crime to report.

911 Operator: Allright sir, where is it taking place?

Mr. Mayfield: Someone has ransacked my home and office at such-and-such location. Things are missing, and out of place. There’s no sign of forced entry, and I’m concerned for my family’s safety.

911 Operator: Oh, sir we can’t take a report from you about that.

Mr. Mayfield: Why is that?

911 Operator: Well, you see, it was definitely not criminals who went into your house.

Mr. Mayfield: How is that?

911 Operator: Well, sir, I can’t tell you, but we cannot take your report.

Of course, this is absolutely not a joke, although it provokes some people to laughter. This is really horrific, and the sort of privacy invasion that is currently apparently considered constitutional by Judge Jones. As a matter of fact, since every Federal Judge has sworn to uphold the Constitution, I think they should resign before they sign even one secret search or secret arrest order.

So after getting the secret search order, what did they get from the search? Zip. Nada. Nothin’. Zero. Just his family DNA, copies of all his computer hard drives, a few cigarette butts that had already been smoked, etcetera. Then, the FBI apparently just put this data out for its people to share, distribute, examine, and spread about freely with no accounting whatsoever for that dissemination, or thinking that somehow this vast, unwarranted privacy invasion of a single man’s life would ever be unraveled.

The provisions of the Patriot Act permitting these judicially-assisted invasions of privacy, will ultimately be determined to be totally unconstitutional when the Gonzales-Ashcroft school of civil liberties is felled like the misbegotten Philistine Goliath that it is. Who will be the David who brings down this cruel, brutal, senseless enemy of freedom? Well, since we are past the days of fighting through champions, those Davids must be ourselves. If all that is required for evil to prevail is the silence of good people, then we should speak up now, before some FBI agent learns that we’ve been talking to peace activists.

The article from the Oregonian provides a smoking gun (in blue below) from the FBI’s own vault. Please note that the FBI confession is, by its own terms, incomplete, as it admits that it also conducted wiretaps and other physical searches of his life.

Bottom line – how can you protect yourself against sneek-and-peek searches? Same way you can protect yourself from thieves – covert video surveillance of your own home. In other words, we now have to protect ourselves from the government as if it were a criminal. I tell you – if Mr. Mayfield had known that Men In Black had pawed through his office, copied all his documents, disk drives, and bagged up the contents of his ashtrays, what do you think he would have done? You know, Portland is not that far from Canada, and I think sometimes the cold air up there is a good thing. Clears the head.

David Sarasohn, for The Oregonian wrote:
A new word on Mayfield, the Patriot Act
Friday, April 08, 2005

A year after he was released from prison with an FBI apology, Brandon Mayfield recently learned some more things about his arrest as a terrorist.

At the same time, Congress -- holding hearings on the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act -- learned a little more about the act, and about what happens when Congress gives government vast new powers without stopping to think about it.

Ever since the arrest and awkward release of Mayfield, on the mistaken grounds that his fingerprint was found on an item connected with the terrorist train bombing in Spain last March, the Justice Department has insisted that the Patriot Act had nothing to do with his arrest. That insistence continued through the opening of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' testimony Monday to the Senate Judiciary Committee -- and then ended a few hours into the testimony, when Gonzales said that, well, yes, a couple of the Patriot Act powers had been involved.

Gonzales told the senators that the FBI had indeed used new powers of electronic surveillance, as well as another section of the act, in its investigation of the Beaverton lawyer -- based on a mishandled fingerprint and, implicitly, his identity as a Muslim convert. Agents collected quite a bit.

At the end of March, as part of his lawsuit against the federal government, Mayfield's attorney received a statement:

"Mr. Mayfield is hereby notified that the following property was seized, altered or reproduced during (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) searches of his residence: three hard drives of three desk top computers and one loose hard drive were copied; several documents in the residence were digitally photographed; ten DNA samples were taken and preserved on cotton swabs and six cigarette butts were seized for DNA analysis; and approximately 335 digital photographs were taken of the residence and the property therein . . . Mr. Mayfield is also hereby notified that he was the target of electronic surveillance and other physical searches authorized pursuant to FISA."

Nobody at this point thinks any of the material seized has any national security significance. Nobody now thinks the secret evidence behind the search meant anything.

People do know that anything collected can now be widely shared.

"There is no idea," says Steven T. Wax, federal public defender who first worked with Mayfield, "how many hundreds and hundreds of people, in intelligence offices around the world, now have access to private materials on Mr. Mayfield, his children and perhaps some of his clients."

Plus his family's DNA.

In fact, Mayfield can't know exactly what's out there.

"Worse still," says Rep. John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, "the department still refuses to give Mayfield a full accounting of what searches were conducted, when they were conducted and what exactly was seized. When an innocent man can't even find out the extent to which his rights have been violated, something is very, very wrong with our system of checks and balances."

That fear, that something has gone off the rails, is why Gonzales was called to testify this week before the Senate and House judiciary committees, considering whether to reauthorize or amend the Patriot Act. It's why a bipartisan group of senators, led by Larry Craig, R-Idaho, has reintroduced the Security and Freedom Ensured Act, which would limit the government's powers to make secret searches without showing probable cause.

"I think we've got a chance to get some of it done," says Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001 and now a SAFE Act co-sponsor. Feingold notes that now even Gonzales is open to some limits -- although the administration also wants other changes to expand its powers even more.

The Mayfield case, Feingold says, "had a big effect on the whole attitude that anybody who criticized the law really wasn't concerned about terrorism." When Gonzales changed course and admitted a Patriot Act role in the case, "That was noticed at the hearing."

The case resounds in other places. In Salem this week, a Patriot Act-driven House bill to require state employees to stay within the Oregon Constitution was referred to committee. Last session, the state Senate passed a resolution calling for changes in the act, 23-2, the most bipartisan thing that happened there all year. Last month, the Montana House passed a similar bill, 88-12.

"The Mayfield case certainly does touch a red button for people here," says Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, co-sponsor of the House bill. "It's one way we make the case that the Patriot Act has led to actions unacceptable to the state."

Last week, we learned more about the Mayfield case.

And just how far the Patriot Act can go.

David Sarasohn, associate editor of The Oregonian, can be reached at 503-221-8523 or davidsarasohn@news.oregonian.com.
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Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:08 am

THE CO-OP CASTE SYSTEM, by Charles Carreon

(Author's note: This piece combines elements of speculation and satire, those cynical-sweet aspects of the writer's nature that cannot be repressed. Ideally, I would prefer not to write disclaimers of this sort, but due to the heavy atmosphere that tends to numb some people's ability to take a joke, I feel obligated to. I think many readers will find things here that they themselves have thought, and for those of my sisters and brothers who consider themselves part of the beleaguered and uneasy "establishment" of the Co-op, have a cup of Valerian before you read further.)

The moment a person walks in the door at ACFS they are subject to the unspoken rules of the Co-op Caste System. This system affects relationships outside the store to some degree, but exercises its most potent influence within the Co-op building itself.

Possibly due to Eastern influence, the Co-op system has four divisions: The Collective Caste, The Cashier Caste, The Member Caste (with its sub-division into working and non-working members), and lastly, those misbegotten members of the lowest stratum, The Unacceptables. A typical interpersonal interchange illustrates the one-way movement of authority characteristic of these class distinctions -- a Cashier, for example, may tell a group of Members to quiet down, but a Member would be overstepping his station by asking a Cashier to hurry up. Membership among The Unacceptables is easily obtained. It is automatically granted to people who hang out around the now-absent table; incompetent or insistent musicians qualify with a minimum of fuss, while a surly attitude and a pair of buckskins grant automatic membership.

The Member caste is variegated, of course, and many of the people in it are only dimly aware of the system which occasionally deals them a jolt -- a run-in with a Cashier, a dry look from a Coordinator. It is the most mobile Caste; from there one may move up into the Cashier Caste and thence to Coordinatorhood, and writing articles like this one can knock you right down among the Unacceptables in a flash, never to return.

One enters the Cashier Caste by virtue of a willingness to take on the responsibility the role demands, and a desire to gain the benefits. Reduced prices are a consideration, and those with dreams of a paying job had best be ready to place their foot firmly on this rung of the ladder. The Cashiers participate intimately with Coordinators and among themselves. As in any group of workers in a business, among themselves they discuss the stresses of the job, the shortcomings of customers, as well as sharing the general sense of advantage which comes from paying less.

The Collective Caste is essentially closed. New members of the caste are elected by a group which is dominated by the opinions of Collective members. As I have noted previously, membership in the Cashier Caste is exceedingly helpful, but by no means a guarantee, since Collective jobs are essentially passed hand to hand as one of the more treasured possessions in the community, and the preference of the outgoing Collective member in favor of a specific successor carries a great deal of weight. A favorite and invariably successful strategy for appointing a successor is a three-step process that works like this:

(1) A collective member begins to show signs of collapse, and takes a vacation, during which a close friend steps in to take her/his place for the duration of the vacation;

(2) After returning, the Collective member has rediscovered the meaning of life, which does not include his/her present job, and a sign-up sheet presently appears to announce an opening on the Collective;

(3) After much reading of resumes and an exhaustive series of interviews, it turns out the member who stood in during the outgoing member's vacation is the right person for the job, and thus the transferal is accomplished without a hitch.

Aspiring Collective members, take note -- as in any organization, advancement at the Co-op may take months and even years of planning, the cultivation of appropriate friendships, etcetera. During the time of your apprenticeship be eager to absorb jargon and buzzwords, for in your interview you will be asked to share your vision for the Co-op. This is essentially a vocabulary test, one for which you must be prepared. Forceful statements or startling ideas will lose points for you; be careful to formulate a bland socialist pablum with a side of lightly minced alternative concepts. This will go down easily without chewing and will save you the embarrassment of having someone choke on a seed. As a final word: Unacceptables, buzz off; save ink, breath, and mental energy -- you haven't got a chance.

As a sidelight on this issue we may consider the interesting fact that Collective members do not always arise from the Cashier Caste on the basis of ability or other business aptitudes. On the contrary, such concerns are minor, and the hiring committee has proved itself capable of hiring a person who doesn't know a crescent wrench from a pipe wrench to fill a position announced as an opening for someone to handle building and maintenance, when in fact a number of people with experience in that area were rejected. This sort of organization dynamic tempts the conclusion that Collective members are drawn from a predetermined group of people, a clique that perhaps, like a Brahmin, one is born for, and Collective members thus may belong to a slightly inbred family whose lineage might be traced by an astute observer back through the years to the original formation of the Co-op itself.

(December, 1981, Issue 36, "More Than Food," Ashland, Oregon)
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Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:09 am

THE DEATH OF FULL EMPLOYMENT -- THE BIRTH OF COOKIE GRABBING, by Charles Carreon

[This wistful utopian musing, salted with a dash of revolutionary aspiration, has worn relatively well during the intervening decades since I wrote it. Nothing has changed worth mentioning, and those of us who rode the dot-com bubble know that cookies are still there to be grabbed. Live and learn.]

More and more Americans don't work for a living. Could this be a fulfillment of the old sci-fi predictions that technology would reach such a height as to make work obsolete? Of course these predictions were usually made with an optimistic intention, and implied that all those persons fortunate enough to live in such an age would willingly embrace unlimited leisure. Only a few prognosticators had the foresight to consider that commonsense morality might balk at such a development, which could be construed as tantamount to turning our world into a vast devil's playground.

Early sci-fi utopias depicted domed cities, free energy and a social organization that provided liberty, leisure and stimulation in ample proportions. Less enthusiastic scenarios have evoked a lethargic and unimaginative humanity drowning in hedonistic ennui. But not many, until very recently, considered the least dramatic possibility: mass unemployment and poverty for millions and colossal profits for the owners of priceless mechanical slaves. For such would be the results of an unequal distribution of the benefits wrought by a hyper-efficient technology.

Up to this point we've been speaking as if non-working as a lifestyle were something new -- a potential development as yet unexplored. In fact, the non-working life has in every generation been the prerogative of a few clever people and their descendants. It's known as letting your money work for you, and money, as we all know, works exceedingly well. Slavery, debt, peonage, and just plain starvation wages all serve to lighten the load on some people by making it heavier on others.

The automatic gospel that was advanced at the dawn of the industrial age proposed that some day machines might take the load off everyone, or at least lighten it considerably. This has not occurred anywhere, of course, but in our own country it becomes more and more feasible. Daily we see reductions in the person power required to do a job. In grocery stores, on loading docks, in offices, the wonders of heavy equipment and high electronics make short work of unskilled personnel and/or turn dull jobs into masterpieces of boredom where human beings are obviously being retained only until some suitably stupid robot can be designed.

But there's no general admission of this reality. Instead there's talk about how great the demand is for computer personnel. And machines eliminate more work and turn more workers into non-workers. Could it be that the cookie-jar has been left unattended? Could there be, at this moment, positions open to non-working personnel? Could you be ready to embark upon this exciting career?

Naturally, there's a certain stigma attached to this sort of activity, which looks a lot like cutting into line by mere force of audacity. Society takes a dim view of persons who take up the non-working lifestyle without first establishing a pile of capital to "work for them." No matter how you amass your pile -- society favors clever entrepreneurs and energetic hustlers over indolent cookie-grabbers. It is, perhaps, a matter of protocol, of going through the proper channels, making the right noises, and appearing energetic even as one rides elegantly on the backs of others.

Even for cookie-grabbers, however, there are certain job requirements. One must be good at keeping appointments and standing in line, and, till recently, able to withstand the sneers of postal workers. An ability to fill out forms is indispensable, and in the case of the elite among non-working personnel, the grant writers, it becomes the entire raison d'etre. At present, then, truly ept cookie-grabbing requires some form of education, or at least a natural ability to navigate the ebbs and flows of bureaucracy, to discern the patterns that recur amid spools of red tape.

The economic policies of the Reagan administration aim to drastically reduce the number of openings in this promising field. Reducing environmental restrictions, lowering the minimum wage and removing various wage-price protections are meant to usher in a new era of prosperity a la laissez faire. But fundamentally the growth of profit in industry depends upon reducing worker-hours, and there is no way out of this cycle but down, down, down. Corporate policies will continue to eliminate jobs and pocket the wages saved thereby for the benefit of those who can make their money work more efficiently in this way. And commonsense morality will continue to require that the unemployed share the dwindling piece of pie that is their share. Until something happens. And until then, if you happen to see a cookie lying around ...

(October, 1981, Issue 34, "More Than Food," Ashland, Oregon)
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Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:10 am

THE PENTAGON RECONSIDERS
by Charles Carreon

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[I now look back fondly on the Reagan Era, remembering the playful character of Papa Ron. He was so fatherly, he could make sending welfare mothers out to work, leaving their kids at home to sell crack, sound like tough love. Actually, now that I think about it, there wasn't much crack then, but the CIA got busy and fixed that problem in a hurry. When I heard Reagan's rich, resonant voice booming through my cheap radio, I knew he was a President before Carter lost. And I knew I had damn well get on the right side of the fence, the educated, lawyerly side of the fence, because pickens were going to be mighty slim back on the old food stamp commune. So Reagan inspired me to be a lawyer, something I like to shove in every Republican's face. What do they call it, "the law of unintended consequences?" One more Democratic administration and I might've disappeared into the woods forever, now they can't get rid of me. Not to digress, however. There was a time when I thought badly of Ron, thinking that his humongous defense buildup would saddle us with enormous debt, and in conjunction with the S&L bailout, would leave the nation in hock for generations. That's when I penned this little humorous and nostalgic view of why all-out war and macho militarism just don't mix. As a final aside, I once believed that the word "Reagan," would someday assume the same importance as "Caesar," such that King Bush may someday crown himself Reagan The Second, but he's probably too stupid to do anything that artistic. -- CC 05/03]

Certainly we never thought the day would come when the bomb would be repudiated by the Pentagon generals themselves, and yet, reliable sources in Washington assure us that just such a development may be in the works. You may of course be sure that any such action, originating from the Citadel of Paranoia, would not be motivated by a desire to insure world peace or any other such sentimentalism. Around there, war is a pleasant business, and some of the high brass have begun to consider the drawbacks of an enterprise which might annihilate most of their clientele. A brief excerpt from a telephone conversation between G. Jim Hollowpoint and Lt. Col. Ed Witherfire may serve to illustrate the surprising dialogue which is beginning to animate that big five-angled building.

Lt. Col. Witherfire: Well, it looks as if we finally got an administration that'll hold hands with us in public. Too bad we lost the MX racetrack system out west, huh?

Gen. Hollowpoint: Maybe it's better this way. We've been tramping over the same ground so long with that damned MX anyway, it's an open secret it'll be obsolete before the overruns are tallied.

Lt. Col. W: Jim, you always were a killjoy -- I didn't even see you smile at the last budget meeting. What's bugging you these days?

Gen. H: If you want it straight I'll tell you. I'm sick of the whole ICBM system, the B-1 is boring, and I've had it with graphs, charts and computers. I didn't get into uniform to be a bookkeeper. This isn't even like war anymore!

Lt. Col. W: I see. Well how'd you start thinking like this?

Gen. H: I just got to thinking about what it'd be like if we go all-out with the Soviets. Damn, Ed, if we started at eight we'd be over by five, and after that what? Wheat thins and canned caviar for one to five years in an underground bunker. Not my idea of a soldier's life.

Lt. Col. W: You're being selfish? What about national security?

Gen. H: I tell you what, just between friends, let's cut the crap. If peace is our business then war is our life, because without war we're both useless as tits on a boar, and moreover the art of war is dying; battlefield experience is a thing of the past, and in fifteen years every general will be an armchair general. They'll replace us with a computer programmed to be aggressive and blow up the world at the stroke of twelve. Courage, strategy, risk, all gone. And where's the thrill?

Lt. Col W: So you want to go back to fighting on horseback?

Gen. H: Wrong. I just want to reintroduce the human element, the risk, the excitement that made me get into this damn business in the first place.

Lt. Col W: But Jim, the point of war is to win, not to have a good time. You know, "things got tough -- we got tougher." The H-bomb's the biggest bruiser on the block.

Gen. H: So what's to win, radioactive acreage in Siberia? That's not conquest, it's ridiculous!

Lt. Col W: OK, granted I accept your considerations, which I'm in sympathy with, but one question. What'll we do with all the hardware? Shall we use up some of it in a limited engagement somewhere, say in Europe?

Gen. H: Despite the pleasure it might give Secretary Haig, I would say no. I've just bought a small castle in Bavaria, and personal considerations aside, there's a PR problem, because once our citizens get a look at Paris after a two-hundred kiloton flash, they might not like what they see. The only way to keep their cooperation is to keep them in the dark, and once the cat's out of the bag, that's pretty hard to do.

Lt. Col W: Good point ...

Gen. H: Ed, your problem is tunnel vision. You're fixated on the idea of nuclear engagements, but there's no need for it. We've got laser tanks, supersonic warbirds, automatic and chemical weapons that do the old tricks in such fine style. But there they are, sitting on the shelf, because people are getting lazy, they just don't want to get out there and pull the trigger, do the work they're paid for. I don't think that's healthy.

Lt. Col W: I'm beginning to see your point. Perhaps we've gotten a little sentimental about the big blast.

Gen. H: Sentimental is right! It's certainly not logical. Just think, the way these peace movements are proliferating, if we sit on this thing much longer people are going to wise up, and then the game'll be over for you and me, my friend.

Lt. Col W: Well, it's certainly something to think about.

Gen H: Good. It can't hurt to stir up a little thought in that empty head of yours. And by the way, don't think I mean to say that nuclear technology is all bad. We just need more control --- particle beam weapons, say ... now then we could have a war. Tell your men, "Vaporize that," and it's done, "Raze that hill," and it's gone.

Lt. Col W: I can see you've done some original thinking.

Gen. H: Well, in an expanding field you've got to, and I tell you, these big bombs are not the way. After all, the point is to keep fighting, not to end it. If we wanted to do that we could go march in a peace parade.

Lt. Col W: You know, I think I begin to hear you! I've got an itch to fight that's about to kill me, but something keeps holding me back, and now I see what it is -- it's my conscience. I can't have my war, because it would be the last one, and that would deprive generations of soldiers still unborn of the right to taste the joy of combat. In fact, a world without people would be a world without war -- kinda makes me cold just to think about it.

Gen. H: You've got it. We have a duty to all humanity to preserve the sacred tradition of war. Nuclear war could endanger that mission.

Lt. Col W: You know, I think we've got some work to do. Let's get together at that place of yours in Bavaria and talk this through over a glass of Jack Daniels.

Gen. H: It's a date.

Lt. Col W: Good, I'll see when Emily's free next week and get back to you. Now, what were you saying about particle beam weapons ...

(March,1982, Issue 38, "More Than Food," Ashland, Oregon)
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Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:10 am

THE UNITY OF RELIGIOUS IDEALS: THE SUFI MESSAGE OF HAZRAT INAYAT KHAN, by Charles Carreon

Since the late sixties, Sufism has become quite well known here in Turtle Island. The work of Sam Lewis and the writings of Idries Shah, as well as the related work of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky have all been deeply influential, to the extent that Sufism has become something of a now thing, as well as an inspiring and venerable tradition of self-unveilment.

Hazrat Inayat Khan stands in the light of a blending of the Hindu and Islamic traditions. The result seems to be the warmth and accessibility of the Hindu devotional approach tempered by the Islamic sense of order and tradition. There is a certain reserve inherent in the Mohammedan definition of humanity's relation with the Creator. Where Hinduism takes the unity of the Deity and Creation as its keynote, the orthodox background of Islam suppressed any such profession on the part of its mystics, emphasizing instead the attainment of a total submission to the being of Allah. At times the experiences of the mystics and the declamations of the scholastics ran counter to each other resulting in conflicts which many Sufi masters were at pains to clarify. Others took to couching their teachings in allegory and symbolism. In the fertile atmosphere of India, far from the tyranny of the orthodox, Sufi tradition flowered in its full mystical splendour.

For Hazrat Inayat Khan, all life is the expression of the Only Being, and our struggles are the means to realizing the Perfection of Love, Harmony, and Beauty. Disharmony plagues us like untuned instruments, for we are out of touch with the Harmony of our Being. The wise of all ages have given limited methods to limited minds in order to give a path to the devoted, however limited their understanding; for of all the attributes important to an aspirant, sincerity is most basic.

The outer clothing of religion is different from culture to culture, but the important thing is the subtle growth all systems seek to nurture. The increase of compassion, warmth, and awareness are the core of religion, and apart from a loving soul, religion does not exist. An illumined being does not need the scriptures to see the way anymore than we need a script to know our thoughts.

This excellent book contains talks on many masters of the past, as well as rich information about the Sufi way proper. It is the spirit of Inayat Khan that speaks most clearly however, beyond the nature of the subject matter, awakening joy and trust, and the deep feeling of longing for our true nature, expressed in the Sufi way as a homesickness which guides us to our home.

Many thanks to the Golden Mean Bookstore for the use of this book. Check them out in their uptown setting. Starting next month we'll begin a four part series on the works of the Venerable Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, beginning with his autobiography, "Born in Tibet."

"November, 1979, Issue No. 15, "MoreThan Food," Ashland, Oregon
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Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:11 am

THE MORAL MAJORITY, by Charles Carreon

An acquaintance of mine recently became a card-carrying member of the Moral Majority. It was, after all, as easy as mailing off a postage-paid card. Unable to resist a bargain, she sent them her name and address, and shortly thereafter received a small package containing a personalized membership card and a small paperback entitled "How to Help Clean Up America." On the cover of this useful volume there is a picture of a whiskbroom sweeping across a map of the continental United States. In place of a handle it is equipped with a small image of the U.S. Capitol, presumably directing the cleanup.

Of course it's easy to see that, as the slogan says, the Moral Majority is neither, but it is meaningful that the leaders of the organization chose that title, obviously implying that the "Silent Majority" of the sixties has begun to take a more aggressive stance. But whereas the Silent Majority perhaps really existed (they never spoke up to say), an examination of the recent surveys shows the Moral Majority to be the most vocal segment of a group that weighs in at about twenty percent of the country's adult population. (I take my figures from Daniel Yankelovitch's recent book, "New Rules.") Seen in this light, the title, "Moral Majority" seems more like a nostalgic assertion that the nation stands firm in its hallowed beliefs, despite appearances.

In league with Creationists and born-again Christians, the members of the Moral Majority are using grassroots activism to re-establish unity which they think our nation once enjoyed. They may be sensing the increasingly pluralistic nature of a society where people read the Q'uran, the Tao Te Ching, and the Bhagavad Gita with devotion once reserved only for the sacred word of Jehovah; a society where money talks so loudly that nothing else can be heard, where no one is really sure if they want to raise a family, or take a job, or adhere to any semblance of appropriate behavior.

The string of winter holidays will serve as an example of the increasing relativity of beliefs. For my own part, Thanksgiving is a perfect time to eat; if I consider its historical roots I cannot but feel the bitter irony of the fate endured by Native Americans, without whose help the first American settlers might well have perished. As to Christmas, I must admit that I have been known to hang little Bodhisattvas all over the tree; I actually lack sufficient eclecticism to rigorously ponder the joyous mystery that unfolded in a manger in the Middle East some two millennia past. And come New Year, I will sense acutely the arbitrary nature of the holiday, since I know the Sino-Tibetan New Year will occur some weeks later. Of course I am weird, and any red-blooded American would tell you so, some more politely than others. But the trend is growing, and our country already boasts one of the most diverse religious landscapes of any country. And religion is culture -- never mind the idea that what matters is the non-cultural essence, differentiable from its trappings like a bottle and its contents -- if you throw away the bottle you lose what's inside.

Like the decayed and affluent Rome which became a vehicle for the Christian faith, North America has become a host body for the incubation of a number of different beliefs. Against the grey background of technological uniformity, the bright colors of ancient belief sparkle with new life.

It is well known that the round of Christian holidays we now celebrate are actually a mix of pagan tradition and Christian symbolism. That they no longer have meaning to most celebrants is also nothing new. Most Americans celebrate both from fear of acknowledging the hollow nature of their activity as well as from a vague sense of duty. We are properly busy, properly gay, and when it is over we are more often than not, properly drunk. It is clearly time for something new, but this is something the old guard never admits. "Rekindle the flame! Raise the old standards anew! Rout the unbelievers!" But time has its way with all things, even with hard beliefs, those stones which uphold the structure of society.

American culture can no longer bear the sterility of materialistic values, but neither can it go back to the comfortable ideological wholeness it once enjoyed. It is a difficult pass. European countries since the Middle Ages have more or less demanded a uniformity of belief from their citizens. Though the United States Constitution guarantees religious freedom, until recently it was generally unwise to test the limits of that right. Today our nation has dried up its own resources and finds itself being a veritable marketplace for world religions. The Moral Majority avers that such activity portends disaster, for it is a "turning away from God." It is therefore a patriotic and religious duty to repress such activity. Such is the paranoia of the dogmatist to believe that disaster attends all who diverge from their path. But it need not be so. In India a number of faiths have lived side by side for centuries, and by and large, tolerance, not repression has been the rule. Such a flowering of many paths could also occur in North America, resulting in a diversity that would be truly splendid, displaying in one land and in complete naturalness the many expressions of the quest for meaning.

(Nov. 1981, Issue 35, "More Than Food")
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Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:11 am

WATCH OUT FOR THE QUIET ONES, by Charles Carreon

I often hear people talking about how quiet someone is, usually with the implication that this quality is a great virtue. Everyone seems to admire the person who has nothing to say. The monk keeps silence, the sage guards his words, scholars reserve their opinions, and politicians refrain from comment. All preserve dignity thereby, and even the most common among us can earn some measure of deference by keeping our mouths shut.

"Oh," people say, "she's so quiet -- he's so calm --" and "he never speaks except when he's really got something to say." Everyone praises the silent ones for their reserve. Rarely does anyone consider that these people might have nothing to say, that their serene inscrutability might not conceal deep thinking, but rather mere emptiness. Common logic recoils from such a thought, holding to the notion that silence is a seal of superiority. And yet I must insist, how are we to measure the quality of a person's ideas who will not reveal them for our examination? This habit of heaping praise upon the head of every reticent fellow is surely absurd: the quality of their wit can at best be considered an undetermined quantity. While the closed mouth of an acquaintance may conceal the mind of an Einstein, it may also be the honest expression of a total lack of intelligence.

The other half of this specious argument is the notion that talkative people are vain purveyors of dubious information. People who talk a lot, the reasoning goes, do so merely because they love the sound of their own voice; they are likely to say anything, and thus their words are without weight. Nothing could be further from the truth. The value of a statement lies not in who says it but in its congruency to actual fact. Whether Caesar or his parrot says "the sky is blue," does not affect the value of the statement, which is true regardless of who says it.

If we are going to examine statements for their truthfulness, we will immediately discover that it is much easier to examine statements that have been made and heard, as opposed to those which have never been voiced. The reason is that while the first object is available for study, the second simply is not. Likewise, it is much easier to judge the thoughts of talkers than those of their silent counterparts, who refrain from conversation.

While I do appreciate the fact that good listeners are rare, and that the practice should be encouraged, this advice is often disseminated by gabby people who relish the lack of competition. They are more than willing to feed the silent ones the sop of common praise in exchange for keeping the floor to themselves. Authority figures also speak out loudly in honor of silence, realizing, of course, that dissent must be voiced to be effective, and that those who don't speak out must consent to be spoken for. Just as no news is said to be good news, a lack of protest may be construed as actual agreement -- a moment of silence as an implied consent.

Ultimately the notion that silence is preferable to talk may be dismissed as mere superstition. A moment of silence could be full of more lies and misinformation than a single sentence could possibly contain. And worst of all, we would never know it.

(May, 1982, Issue 40, "More Than Food," Ashland, Oregon)
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Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:14 am

WHITE MAN TWEAK WITH FORKED TONGUE -- THE GOVERNMENT-INDUCED SPEED PLAGUE, by Charles Carreon

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Warrior Tweakers, Good! Citizen Tweakers, Bad!

They’re tweaking again. The military, I mean. It’s not just the throttle jocks, I’m sure, who are popping Dexedrine to stay alert. It’s a war on, man, and if you can’t sacrifice a little sleep to the war effort, then what kind of patriot are you? That’s speed thinking. Compelling, so compelling of course that virtually all of the pilots flying combat missions in Iraq are in an altered state.

An altered state, may I remind you, that in an ordinary citizen is considered illegal in the extreme, a dangerous self-indulgence in a forbidden psychic kick that renders you outré. You’re a meth-head, a dangerous, child neglecting, spouse-abusing, larcenous scab on the body of society, in need of treatment and scorn. As a former prosecutor and criminal defender, I know the depictions are not far-fetched, either. Cranksters can be vile creatures, and meth induces a callousness of character that is definitively anti-social. Delusions of grandeur can feed notions of gangster mystique, and facilitate violence. I once had a client tell me in jail about how he brutally broke the kneecaps on a total stranger after taping him to a chair in his garage, because he had mistaken the poor fellow for some guy who ripped him off. After another tweaker friend came home and informed my client that the fellow was not the ripoff, they put him in the back of a pickup and threw him out in front of the emergency room and sped off. Of course, some meth users merely become weasely thieves, and do not commit mayhem. At all events, it has a corrosive effect on character.

So why do the military rate? Eliminate from your mind first the notion that the drugs are not the same. Dextroamphetamine is what the Air Force hands out to pilots, and they take extras along in the jet to self-administer as desired. Dextro just means the molecule “turns to the right” instead of to the left, but to your brain it’s all the same – left turn, right turn, speed on. To fight fatigue is said to be the reason. But a great side effect is the creation of the callous, anti-social character necessary to drop weapons of mass destruction on fellow humans. It takes a certain distance to do this sort of thing. Speed helps.

It makes me think of the lyrics from “Lucretia,” by the Sisters of Mercy:

“I hear the roar of a thin machine,
Hot metal and methedrine.
Love lost, fire at will,
Dum-dum bullets and shoot to kill,
I hear a dive bomber …
Empire Down …
Empire Down …”


Returning to the question – why do the military get to take speed? Because they need to, we are told. The Iraqis are probably doing speed, too. They’re not stupid. It gives them a little bit of advantage, what with having to stay up all night soldering together bomb-timers, and repairing assault rifles, not to mention keeping a prayer schedule. Speed helps.

Where’s The Money?

The origins of amphetamine are recent. Discovered just before the turn of the century, methamphetamine was synthesized by Smith, Kline & French in 1929. The company filed two trademarks on the trade-name “Benzedrine” in 1936, one as a tablet “medicine for the stimulation of the nervous system,” and another as a decongestant inhaler, citing first use in commerce in 1933. Glaxo, Smith Kline is still the big distributor of Dextroamphetamine for the military, and related stimulants like Adderall, for obnoxious little boys who won't sit still in school. Merck developed a simplified synthesis during the second world war to fuel the Blitzkrieg. I assume we aren’t holding back from giving infantry their share of the crank. After all, the infantryman and mechanized armor guys have the hardest work. So they’re speedin’ legally, driving humvees, tanks, fuckin’ rockin’ and rollin’ for real, and their commanders don’t mind that they’re listening to death metal with titles like “Cook Your Balls and Eat ‘Em,” ‘cause it’s a new crankin’ Army muthafucka.

War Is Hell, But Peace Is Sooooo Boring!

Our little cranksterized killers are going to have a hard time adjusting to civilian life. Death metal they’ll still have, but speed will be dearly bought with social ostracism. And they may begin to reflect on the horrors that they committed when the tunes were crankin’ and their reflexes were cleanly, smoothly distributing ammunition among the Iraqis. It seemed like a video game, but after the smoke and heroics are blown away, there is a terrible wound that the heart does not know how to heal. I knew that wound in some of my uncles who were in the infantry during world war two. They drank a lot.

Of course, the speed experience is not all exhilaration. There’s depletion and exhaustion and paranoia. No amount of speed will move the weariness out of bones that have been worked sore, and the business of dispensing ammunition is terribly wearying. I like to shoot my daughter’s .44 magnum lever-action gun, but it doesn’t have a cushion on the butt, and I’ve never shot a whole box of 50 rounds at a time. My shoulder just gets too sore. I’d hate to have to use that rifle in a war. They’d win just because my shoulder would get sore. Speed might help.

This Shit Works!

I wonder if it’s just possible that the policy makers, munitions makers and pharmaceutical makers might have realized how beneficial it would be for them to encourage the use of a drug that makes people more productive, less sensitive, more able to commit mayhem, less concerned with how they feel about what they are doing. Alfred Nobel created dynamite, some nameless chemist created speed. Who did the more powerful deed? Well, certainly their inventions worked hand in hand to make the world a far more detonated place.

Celebrity Cranksters, Celebrity Killers

Genies have a habit of getting out of the bottle, and the meth genie has been out of the bottle for about seventy-plus years now, fueling an expansion of manic energy that has probably resulted in the unnecessary damming of rivers, cutting down of forests, annihilation of entire tribes, species and ecosystems. And the toxic mentality has spread from the top down. Both Adolf Hitler and John F. Kennedy had “Dr. Feelgoods” who injected them with methamphetamine daily. Dr. Theodor Morell was Hitler’s psychiatric physician and constant companion, just as Dr. Max Jacobson was always present to serve as Kennedy’s pharmaceutical nursemaid. Both doctors supplemented the stimulant regimen with downers to moderate the manic effects of speed. It has been observed that Hitler’s mania for annihilating the Jews developed in intensity during the period of Morell’s influence.

Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap

Hitler’s allies, the Japanese, were also tweaking freely throughout the second world war, as the Imperial government doled out speed to the military and civilian populace alike, to keep up the “war effort.” The Rape of Nanking, a horrific war crime perpetrated by Japanese soldiers against no fewer than 369,366 Chinese men, women and children during 1937-38, was a murderous orgy that continued for months, during which the Japanese troops raped no less than 80,000 women of all ages. Reliable historical reports indicate that the Japanese killed many millions of Chinese during the second world war, although this Sino-Japanese holocaust has received little attention or commemoration. This type of lethal productivity has the feel of a meth-fueled murder nightmare. The suicide pilots of the Japanese air force were given amphetamines to overcome the desire to survive. The Japanese reversed course on their people after the war, made meth illegal in 1952, and arrested over 50,000 people. The country still has a serious problem with intravenous methamphetamine users, who comprise a large proportion of the 2 million meth users in the land of the Rising Sun.

African Children Turned Into Killing Machines

Many of the approximately 100,000 children under arms in the world are manipulated with amphetamines. For example, in Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Burma, and other war-torn nations, children are taken captive, raped, starved, brutalized, and then injected crudely with amphetamines, cocaine, and other drugs, and directed to commit murderous rampages. A Washington Post article by Douglas Farah, published April 8, 2000, quoted international aid sources as follows: “In Sierra Leone, said social workers and the child combatants, taking drugs-especially amphetamines and cocaine-was a regular part of ‘military training.’ Human Rights Watch found in a 1999 report that ‘child combatants armed with pistols, rifles and machetes actively participated in killings and massacres, [and] severed the arms of other children. . . . Often under the influence of drugs, they were known and feared for their impetuosity, lack of control and brutality.’”

American Children Turned Into Substance Abusers

That’s one way to get folks into drugs young, but we are more subtle in the USA, and we use what is called “treatment.” Under the guise of treating ADD and ADHD, two “diseases” that seem to afflict little boys who eat junk food and watch a lot of TV, our little preschool punk rockers are “treated” by school nurses who dole out speed from a jar. Of course, first they started out using “methylphenidate,” aka Ritalin which supposedly “wasn’t an amphetamine.” This label-switching was ordained by the pharma marketing geniuses who started this project to turn kids into cranksters back in the fifties, because the diet pill craze was winding down, and amphetamines, bennies, white crosses, pink hearts, and black beauties had all got a bit of a bad name at the courthouse and in popular literature. The Rolling Stones helped break the bad news about diet pills in their song, “Mother’s Little Helper,” with its pleading refrain “Doctor please, some more of these!” and its jabbing rejoinder, “Outside the door, she took four more!” But the pharma hacks are always good at finding another use for powerful substances, and now, it turns out that Dextroamphetamine, mixed with meth, in a formulation called “Adderall,” is even better than silly old Ritalin. So what good is it to give speed to kids who are speedy?

Thanks for asking. To answer, I must introduce the vaunted “paradoxical effect” of amphetamines on children under some uncertain age. Marvelously, the pharma hacks explain, speed slows down speedy kids! And you know, with proper medical care and monitoring, maybe it is helpful in extreme cases. But in the USA, what’s good can get force-fed down your throat, whether you need it or not. Think lobotomies for excitable mental patients. The same thing has happened to children. Researcher Nadine Lambert recently presented data at the Consensus Development Conference indicating that prescribed consumption of stimulants during childhood predisposed young adults to cocaine abuse. This sort of obvious connection occurred to me when I heard that one of my nephews, a longtime Ritalin-kid, was doing hard time in the penitentiary because he couldn’t stop using meth. Soon, some criminal defense attorneys are going to wake up and realize that when the state gets you addicted to a controlled substance, that should be a defense to criminal possession.

Houston, We Have A Problem!

Meth has crept into our lives very quietly, and will not leave easily. It may very well explain the extreme bellicosity and hardheadedness of many white American males, who develop a strong loyalty to the drug because of its association with productivity, the work ethic, and a positive, can-do attitude. There is a great false optimism that is brimming over among the nation’s military leaders. We are going to export democracy, uproot tyranny, and kill all the bad guys. With a little crank, it’s all in a day’s work, because speed helps. On speed, we can do more. Somewhere Hitler is smiling.
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Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Mon Apr 27, 2015 2:26 am

The Village
by Charles Carreon
4/27/15

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Ron was not happy. Not happy at all. He was staring at the hole in his dashboard, and he just could not believe it. The windows weren't broken, the doors were still locked the way he'd left them before he started his shift. It was broad daylight. Out loud he breathed the words, "Where's my fucking stereo?" A frown was holding his face prisoner, and it tightened its grip as he reached out and said, "What the hell is this?"

"This" was a wispy piece of iridescent paper, or maybe it was metal, about half the width of a stick of gum, and twice as long. Again he said, "What the hell?" as he flipped on the dome light to give it a closer look.

As he did, it stiffened in his fingers and a gleam ran down its length. Then a string of words began flowing across the surface. The words were ... well he couldn't remember them exactly when he tried to later, but it was essentially something like,

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"Dear Ron,

Your car stereo has not been stolen. You have been selected for a special experiment. Your car stereo has been displaced to a null space, and as a result, a village of 600 people has been spared from destruction. Should you want your stereo back, it will be necessary to displace the village. To make your choice, you need do nothing. The same process that initiated this special experiment will effect its return."


Ron felt a surge of anger, possessiveness. He had really been enjoying his car stereo, and so had his girlfriend. He could put the old one back in. Geez. He stared at the strip of metal that had stopped displaying text and was getting wispy again.

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He stared out the windshield, seeing a village in his mind, drowned at the bottom of a lake someplace in China. He didn't know why he thought that. The note hadn't said anything about China. He went to look at it again. There was nothing between his fingertips. Oh my god. He felt dizzy for a second, like maybe he was losing it, and stuck his hand into the empty space, feeling loose wires. "It's still gone," he said. And he knew why.

Luann didn't even mention when she played the old stereo that he reinstalled. It was weird, almost as if she didn't remember him getting it, or the big deal he'd made about the increase in tonal range the new amp had, with digital fuzzy logic and ... and he realized he didn't miss it at all. Things were going better with Luann, in fact, and maybe it was because he spent less time talking about electronics stuff. He chuckled to himself. Fuckin' crazy shit. "Special experiment. Scammers ... pranksters...." occasionally he wasn't sure, but he couldn't bring himself to test it, to say, "I want my stereo back! Drown the village." No, no. He didn't want to risk it. He did not want his stereo back that bad, or maybe, he realized, at all.

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Ron was looking at Luann's books -- pictures of coral reefs and fishing villages. Luann was making lunch in the kitchen. They'd gotten married about a year before, and on the weekends she liked to cook, and Ron liked to dream about places they could get away to. He called out to Luann, "We should go see some of these places."

"We can't," she replied.

"Why not?"

"Because they're all gone. Drowned by rising seas. Even before that, the coral reefs were killed by rising acid levels."

Ron looked at the cover of the book. It was called "Hidden Paradises," by a couple of photographers. A husband and wife team. Their picture was on the back standing on a dock in some jungle with a pontoon airplane floating next to them. Ron envied them in every fiber of his being. They looked relaxed, satisfied, energized. Just like I'd like to feel, said Ron to himself. He checked the date on the book -- 2018. "I hadn't realized this book was so old," he said to Luann, as he got up off the couch and walked into the kitchen, looking at the couple on the back again. "Why didn't our parents give a shit?"

"It's hard," said Luann. "They were pursuing a dream, right? Isn't that what they taught us in school? The American Dream was unsustainable and toxic? Now sustainability is our path."

"Too bad we couldn't have taken it by choice," answered Ron. He went back to the couch. Their only window was next to it.

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That night he had a dream. He was playing poker, and he got a royal flush. Everyone around the table was looking at him with amazement as he fanned the cards out on the felt. He was about to reach out and scoop the pot, that was stacked with cash, gold, jewels, a king's ransom, it looked like. Then he looked across the table, and there was a little girl in a threadbare muslin dress, looking wan and pale and hungry, and as she looked at him, he saw that she was one of a great crowd behind her, all hungry, all silent, all pleading without breathing a sound. Then suddenly a clock started ringing, and he looked up on the wall and there was a clock there, and both hands were pointed straight up. He awoke with a dry mouth.

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After that, the special experiment resumed, and picked up speed. One day it was his new car, reduced to a scooter, with a little silver wisp hanging off the right-side mirror. It was a nice scooter, and his car was worth a lot -- it displaced a huge slum outside of Rio de Janeiro, and replaced a six square mile swath of Amazonian forest, and several villages of forest dwellers with unique language, culture, and pharmacological wisdom.

He got into the game, wondering what the experiment would hawk next, and how much he'd get for it. From the news, he could see the world becoming a much nicer place to live, but he didn't need the news to see it. The results were all over the neighborhood. For one thing, there was a neighborhood. In the evening, you could hear people calling their kids home for supper, screen doors slamming, and smell dinner aromas drifting across the way. Bicycles were everywhere, and cars rarely seen. Less car accidents, for sure. Strangely, he hadn't heard of a war, anywhere, in years. That was so weird. He tried to remember some of the wars. Like there was one in the desert for so long. Religious thing, or maybe an oil thing. He just couldn't remember.

The years went by, and he never told anyone what was happening. He knew he couldn't be the only participant in the special experiment, and he could tell it was going well, very well indeed. But no one talked about it. No one said, "I'm saving the world one displaced commodity at a time."

But that's how it was. Gradually, even the neighborhood thinned out, and he and Luann decided to move closer to the beach. There were a number of places available, and rent was low. They didn't worry about buying the place. Nobody seemed to worry about buying a place anymore.

About a month after they moved in, all of Ron's automotive tools disappeared, along with the scooter he'd had for years ever since his car disappeared. Now the scooter was gone. He walked into the garage, and whoa, it was a stable. Hmm, he recognized the horse, and it recognized him. He had an apple for it right in his pocket. He fed it to him, and rubbed his head under the forelock. "Whatta ya say, boy? Shall we saddle up for a ride later?" Rusty, that was the horse's name, pawed the ground lightly and whinnied with a soft head shake in reply.

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After dinner, the sun went down red over the sea, and he and Luann sat in woven chairs seeing the world tinged with passionate rose light.

As the sun winked behind the coral atoll offshore, a pod of dolphins broke through the glassy surface of the sea, spreading ripples across the waves. Ron held Luann's hand gently. He looked forward to losing so much more.

It's Our Love, by Iggy Pop
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