Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Chapter 3


If you want to draw attention to yourself, there are several ways to do it in today's hectic world. Two come immediately to mind. The first is to place yourself in a Wal-Mart checkout line during the Christmas rush, and set your hair on fire. The second is to drive anywhere in Ms. Agnes.

Somewhere and when, someone with a mean streak had taken a perfectly good Rolls Royce and turned it into a pickup truck. Then, just in case no one noticed, they had painted her an electric blue, bright enough to give you a toothache.

"You know Meyer, ordinarily one must go to California to view this kind of perversion."

"Yes, I know. Nevertheless, Travis dearly loves her. And you must admit, that it makes grocery shopping very convenient."

"Well, it makes it an event, I'll give you that much. Meyer, my mother thought that American grocery stores were very close to heaven. She had lived in several third-world countries where shopping was a daily burden, and shortages were the norm. I guess when you compare that to the "Super" stores she may have had a point. What she didn't mention, was the slide of the American consumer into culinary stupidity."

"What do you mean by that M?"

"Take a look at your average Super-store. You've got your packages of burritos, cans of refried beans, tubs of sour cream, jars of mayonnaise, boxes of macaroni & cheese, cans of whipped topping, cups of desert pudding, bottles of soda water, chewing gum, ketchup, packages of hotdogs, loaves of bread, pre-cooked frozen turkey breast, and quick bake brownies, all wrapped up in packaging that will still be here in two hundred years. Now take your average shopper, give him twenty pounds of flower, some salt, lard, and a side of beef, and watch him starve to death. If it isn't in a package, Americans don't know what to do with it. Hell, the average American would starve to death in a wheat field overrun by chickens."

"May I take that as a rant?" Meyer asked.

"Nope. Take it as a shopping list. I'm going to drop you off at the grocery store while I run an errand. I'll meet you back there in an hour to load up. Don't forget to pick up a case or two of Budweiser."

While Meyer went shopping for food, I stopped off at the local Sam's Club. You can get groceries there, but only in bulk. Originally, only companies and large groups could belong to Sam's Club. Now, anyone can come in off the street and join for thirty or forty dollars a year. Aside from the bulk groceries, they have an excellent selection of computer gear for rock bottom prices. I picked out a two-gig processor with an HP printer, a 32-bit scanner, seventeen-inch monitor, and a two-way satellite dish for a base station on the Busted Flush. All of that came out to about a thousand dollars. I added a laptop machine with a wireless modem for close to the same price, and paid for it all with part of McGee's contingency funds.

After picking up Meyer and the groceries, we unloaded everything into the Busted Flush, and made final preparations for our trip. Meyer checked with the Coast Guard to get an extended weather forecast. I looked over McGee's charts trying to choose a secure destination. Sue spent her time making sure that we had gas, oil, and fresh water for the trip. I didn't make any real progress until after Meyer came back with the weather reports.

"Here's the problem. If we stick you two in a motel somewhere, your whereabouts is going to be available to too many people. If we try to anchor you in some hidden bay somewhere, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. There aren’t that many undeveloped bays left, and the ones that are undeveloped have twenty or thirty wildlife officers who ask too many questions and then tell you that you can't stay there anyway."

Meyer thought about it for a second, then said: "Travis once told me that it was always easiest to hide in the open. I have a close acquaintance with a place on the water just north of Marathon. His home sits on a small waterway just across from the airstrip, on Blue Fin Circle. It's protected from the Gulf, and from Route 1. I happen to know that he is leaving for France next week. I could call him and ask about tying up to his dock."

"Ok, give it a try, but use a pay phone. Why do you think he might let you tie up there?"

"Two reasons. First, he would probably be happy to have someone watching his property while he is away, and second, because he still hasn't paid me for an ill conceived wager he made when we were golfing at the Sombrero Country Club."

"Ok, check him out. If it all works out, we can start in the morning. "

I spent the rest of the day hooking up the computer, and connecting to the Internet. We needed more information, and the World Wide Web offers tons of information free. I should not have been surprised that the Anti-Deformation League had a variety of background information available about the Aryan Brotherhood, and the Aryan Nation. What was surprising was the breadth and depth of the information available. I got search hits from every state in the nation, and the far reaches of Europe and the Middle East. The organization had widespread roots, and an active recruitment drive, with its own newspaper directed towards prison inmates. The shear volume of information was enough to terrify me. The only technical glitch in the system had nothing to do with the hardware, or software. The gentle movement of the Busted Flush occasionally caused the satellite dish to lose its signal when another boat motored by. About six in the afternoon, Sue, Meyer, and I got together for a drink.

"We are all set with my friend Rob in Marathon." Meyer said while performing a ritual at the bar. He filled a Manhattan glass almost full of ice, then splashed in some good sherry. He promptly dumped the sherry out through a strainer, rubbed the rim of the glass with a lemon rind, gave it a light squeeze, then threw it away and filled the glass with Boodles British Gin. "He's even suggested that we run a power line into his boat house, and connect to his garden hose for fresh water."

Sue came in and handed me a can of Bud. "What are you two planning to make for diner?" She asked. "I have a theory that men should be made to cook occasionally."

I thought for a second that I might have to prove myself with a bag of flower, and a side of beef, but Meyer spoke up first.

"Allow me. I have a pot of chili cooking on the Thorstein Veblen. Proper chili takes days to prepare. You must let the flavors blend overnight, or you may as well eat it out of a can. I will run over and get it as soon as I finish this drink. It may take a while, because I have some last minute locking up to do before I can leave. I assume you want to get an early start. I'll sleep here on the couch tonight."

"Yes, I think the earlier the better. I don't want to wait around for Tall William and Bubbles to bring back their friends."

"Bounce, you mean. Tall William and Bounce." Sue said, curling up on the couch. "Tell me M, what exactly are our plans?"

"The plan for tomorrow, is just to move you and Meyer to a safe haven. I have more homework to do on the computer, and then I'll be leaving to round up a team. Once we have more information on the players, we can come up with something more specific. I would like to pick your brain for an afternoon. I need to know everything you can tell me about the place you live, and who else lives there."

"Good. I want to know more about you too. Knights-errant do not come along every five minutes. I thought Travis was the last of a breed."

"You might be surprised young lady, how many there really are. Take our helpful Officer Stein for example. There are more like him all across America. Just take an ounce of testosterone, have their mothers add a pound or two of civility, and their fathers mix it with hard-knocks, then educate, and let it simmer until done."

"Which reminds me of diner," Said Meyer, as he was getting up to leave.

"It reminds me of a fairy tale." Sue said. "Just think about all the women out there that will never catch one. And don’t tell me how young I am."

"Not a fairy tale," I said. "They’re just using the wrong bait. And I don’t see any wrinkles on you."

“So what’s the right bait?” She said as Meyer left.

“Hell girl, that isn’t any secret! A man loves to be loved, and wants to be wanted, same as any woman. Point those headlights at whom-so-ever you want, and get to gettin’. Swallow a little pride, and the world belongs to you. I know it’s hard to play second fiddle, but if you want a man, you got to stroke him just so. Most romances break up or fail to materialize because one side of the fence or the other just can’t swallow their pride. When it comes right down to it, most men would if, most women wouldn’t unless … Just decide what you want, and spit it out.”

“Ok M. What if I said that I want someone like you?”

“You mean someone about 6’ 4” tall, with brushy white hair, about twice your age?”

“M. You may know a lot about life, but you don’t know squat about women. We don’t think the same as men. I mean someone tall, handsome, mature, and whipcord thin, who has opinions of his own.”

“Well, it wouldn’t be too hard to find someone who agreed with you as to how much I know about women. Just ask any that ever knew me.”

“M. What’s it like to be a man? I mean about sex and all.”

“That’s a tough question. There’s being a man, and then there’s being a good man. It’s two different things. By nature, I guess men in general want to bounce the bones of any nubile young thing that comes by. Being a good man is a bit tougher. It means saying no when you really want to say yes. Any man worth having wants more than a pneumatic doll to bounce around with. Fortunately for the human race, we’re only human. Biology is much stronger than the male brain.”

“So you’re saying you want to be more than just a one night bounce?”

“I’m talking about Douglas Adam’s infamous “42”, the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. Some men think that “42” is two twenty-one year olds. I’m more inclined to believe it means four-ply toilet paper and a two-day workweek. There is hardly anything in this world that I like more than bouncing around, but there is more to life than what I enjoy. Women are people too you know.”

“God M, I may faint. You must be the absolute last man on earth with a cape to lay down.”

“Well, it hasn’t been in style for a while Princess.”

“My dad used to call me that. Princess.”

“With good cause I’m sure. Now, can we talk about something else?”

“I’m not through with this discussion. When Meyer gets back, you’d better eat fast.”