8. The Nutbat Stack

After several meetings with Mountain County officials, the Brotoks City Council yesterday approved a law enforcement agreement with Mountain County to provide police protection for the residents of Brotoks through the Mountain County Sheriff's Department. Did you hear what this fucking guy just said? This fucking guy the President, what other fucking guy is there?

The one-year contract comes with a price tag of $1,735,000 and is retroactive to July 1. Get this: it's now the Chinese neo-fascists who've been fucking with our weather. It just came over the feed. I'm telling you, you can look it up, asshole, that's just what he said. They're broadcasting it tonight.

Previously, according to a Brotoks City Council spokesperson, Brotoks paid upwards of $1,900,000 per year for police protection from the Sheriff's Office. It's kind of brilliant, actually. That's three of his favorite birds with one stone, just like that. The Chinese, the neo-Nazis, the—wait, is China even fascist?

That's what makes it so gorgeously ridiculous, it's not China, it's independent groups of Chinese fascists, you know, operating undercover, in or out of the country, I don't know.

In further business, the Council set trick or treating for Sunday, Oct. 31 from 5 - 7 p.m. with the Halloween Parade to be held at 5 p.m. That doesn't make any sense.

Of course it doesn't make any sense, that's why it's so good. That's why people are going to buy it to fuck and back. The fucking guy's a fucking A-one evil genius.

It was decided that the same route would be followed as last year, despite some complaints from downtown business-owners about the quality of clean-up. Chinese-American community's gonna be starched again.

I don't get it though, if China's not fascist, why are these Chinese fascists?

The Council also set Saturday, Dec. 13 as the day for Santa's Visit and Pancake Breakfast day, which is just great, it's perfect, because see according to him it's the social and political conditions of a new people's democratic republic, you know, that fosters the formation of these crazy little fascist groups. I mean no kidding, it's a masterstroke, he's finally managed to tie them together. And the weather to boot!

I still can't believe the fucking guy said that.

Drew punched his keyboard with both fists and said slowly, "Would you guys please ..."

"Drew?" Kenneth turned around and whispered, "Drew! Did you hear this? Do you believe—"

Drew's phone rang. "It's just that some of us are trying to write, you know, the news," he said, picking up the phone.

"Someone to see you at the front desk here, Drew."

"Not another crankcase I sincerely hope, Glynda."

"She says she's a friend of yours," Glynda said, with suppressed skepticism. "Name's Miranda Christianson?"

"Yes," he said. He stood up, sat down, smiled, frowned, coughed, and said, "Send her in, no I'll come out, that's fine, great, thanks Glyn ..."

On his way to the front desk he met Roy Mitchem who called out, "Hey Dunkel, got one for you: What's better than roses on your piano?"


"What's better than roses on your piano?"

"I don't know, Roy. Maybe bring it up with Fuller at the next—"

Roy simpered. "Drew, man, it's a joke."

"Oh yeah," he grimaced, "very funny ..." He slapped Roy on the arm and walked on.

"Tulips on your organ," Roy called after him. "Ah, never mind."

She was not alone. There was a young man—a boy, really—hanging in the background, looking uncomfortable. Drew smiled at each of them in turn.

"Thanks, Glyn," he said. To the sheepish duo he said, "Well, hello!"

Miranda said, "Hello, Drew."

"To what do I owe this pleasure?"

"Is there some place we can talk?" asked Miranda.

"Sure," he said, "of course. Let's see ... Follow me."

Suspicions began to crystallize. The scenario seemed too familiar not to be archetypal. This was her boyfriend. She had been with this boy the other night; that was why she hadn't come, that was why she'd brought him along today, to explain. This was her boyfriend, and they'd come to tell him that she was pregnant. That was why she had been acting so strange. She must have brought the boy to town with her. She'd got knocked up, couldn't tell her mother—and so she'd thought of him. She'd come all this way not to see him, not to meet him, not to be with him, but only because she needed something from him. Needed his help. Needed money, probably. She was only using him.

"Here we—nope! Sorry, don't mind us ... That's the afternoon editorial meeting, didn't realize quite what time it was, but here we are, this should do nicely."

Miranda did not look so sure. "Is there maybe some place more private we could talk?"

"Close that door and we'll have all the privacy you can handle." He knew his levity was inappropriate but he could not bring himself to validate their grimness with any of his own. He was going to pretend that he had no idea what was coming. He was not going to make it easy for them.

She looked at the boy, who shrugged minimally.

This guy? thought Drew. Really? He was getting a belated taste of what it was like to be the father of a teenage girl. Disappointment, incredulity, anger.

"Or," he said, "there's a pub across the street."

"This'll do," said Miranda. "Pierce?"

"Doesn't matter."

She pulled a chair from the table and he sat in it skittishly. Miranda took a seat herself but immediately stood up, and leaning over the table asked Drew urgently, "Do you have a PDR?"

"Of course."

"On you?"

He took it from his pocket.

"That's what I thought. Could you put it away somewhere?" She smiled sweetly. "Just in case."

"So, Pierce, tell him. We can trust him. Tell him what we talked about."

"It's like this," the boy said at last. He looked at Drew imploringly.

The poor fucker. She was going to make him do all the talking. Just like Sheila.

Sir, we got ourselves into a certain situation and, well, I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm very fond of your daughter and I'd like your permission if at all possible

"What it comes down to," the boy Pierce said, "is ammonia and barium. Ammonia and barium in the atmosphere. The levels are higher than they've ever been and they're still going up exponentially, I mean it's steeper than the Yale curve for crying out fuck. All these numbers you can get online. We're talking independent studies corroborated from points all over the globe but especially the U.S. The research has been compiling for years. Ammonia to disorient and barium because, you know: bury 'em. You think these are accidents?" He laughed bitterly. "They have everything planned out from the beginning to the end. It's been going on for decades, man. In 1953 Frank Olson jumps out of a window and it's still going on. Shit, man, the information's out there but people don't even want to look, it upsets their happy little picture-window view of the world."

"Tell him about the VR thing," Miranda reminded him.

Her voice seemed to have a soothing effect. Pierce wagged his shoulders, put his hands on the table, and sighed. "What it comes down to is dizziness. That's why the whole VR thing imploded into itself. It never got off the ground because people were getting sick all over the place. Your eyes see one thing and your body feels something different or nothing at all and your inner ear, like, gets all fucked out of it. You get dizzy and your brain thinks you've been poisoned and you throw up. Not so great for business, ha. Brave new world postponed, ha."

The kid's eyes had begun to lighten. He was warming up. He'd obviously said a lot of this before, probably in the very same words. Drew suddenly felt very tired, as if he had crested a hill and seen the mountain it had been hiding.

"So what do they do? They look for an antinauseant that isn't going to have a lot of side effects. I mean," the boy added with withering cynicism, "ideally. No problem, they've got lab rats and chimps galore just itching for this kind of gig. They find what they're looking for, rest assured you me."

"They always do," said Miranda with sing-song glumness.

"Problem is their marketing people do all these expensive studies and come to the conclusion that hey guys, um, we don't think people are exactly going to want to pop a pill before going to the movies. Or you know, shoot up, ha. So what can they do? Gas the audience before they strap them into their headsets? Good idea! But turns out: oops, the inhalable stuff, the stuff that's effective airborne, doesn't smell too good. Once again marketing in their infinite bizdom figure maybe gassing people with noxious chemicals isn't gonna pay off in the end, gonna be bad for the almighty bottom line. Then somebody says: Hey what about fluoride?"

The kid paused dramatically. Drew saw that Miranda was watching him, Drew, for his reaction. He felt embarrassed for both of them.

"Like fluoride in the water supply. Some wise guy discovers it helps prevent cavities and bing, people are drinking it before they even know what it is or what a cavity is. Well, shit, couldn't they do the same thing with lyseridol? If it's in everybody all the time, problem solved! Goodbye nausea, hello box-office smash. So now they go back to the drawing board, laboratory, whatever, to take another look at those side effects. As in, is there any beneficial ones they can maybe pitch to a senator somewhere? Let's see." The kid began bending back and forth the fingers of one hand. "Disorientation, headaches, sensitivity to sunlight, weight loss, weight gain—let's keep looking. Loss of appetite, ringing in the ears, insomnia and other disturbance of sleep patterns—ehhhh, maybe not. Depression, anxiety, distractibility, irritability, stomach pains—pass. Dry mouth, salivation, itchiness, numbness, flattened emotions—ho hum. But now here's an interesting one: increased suggestibility? Huh! Somebody files that little tidbit away for future consideration."

Well, Drew thought gloomily, she's not pregnant.

"But so what it's beginning to look like is a no-go on the water supply angle. Gonna be a hard sell. Grumble grumble. If only we could get the stuff to rain out of the godfucking sky! Somebody's light-bulb goes on—ding! Why didn't we think of that before? We'll put the shit up there in the clouds, man. How do we do that? Oh, what, you don't know? The government's only been doing it for years, man. It's so easy it hurts. Put, the shit, in jet fuel. Instant cloud-maker! Tomorrow cloudy with an eighty percent chance of lyseridol—"

At this point something happened. It happened, approximately, in Drew's stomach.

It was indescribable, unlike anything he had ever experienced inside the borders of his body before. There was a sucking and releasing sensation, as if some strange gland had emptied itself. The feeling had the same crackling quality as when one's ears popped on an airplane, but was more sudden and violent, and was heard in his bowels. For it had been distinctly, but internally, audible. Though it was not painful, the sensation was so bizarre that it made Drew get to his feet.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I can't listen to any more."

The boy slumped in his chair. "Shit, man, I told you the fucking media ..."

"Hold on," said Miranda, "everybody wait."

Drew, who had been moving towards the door, turned and began pacing. He told himself that he was not dying. That was weird, yes. But it was over now. For now. Still best to keep moving. Don't let it catch up—

"I can't listen to that," he said, running a hand back and then rapidly forth through his hair. "I mean, my God, Miranda, he's talking about chemtrails." He looked at the boy and said, "You're talking about chemtrails."

"So you know about it," they said at the same time.

"Everybody knows about it, it's been around for fifteen years, twenty years, it's—"

"Yeah, damn right," muttered the boy, "they've been doing that shit for twenty years, easy."

Drew stopped pacing. He looked at them and felt his arms spread in a pleading gesture. "And they debunked it twenty years ago. It's nonsense, it's fantasy, it's a fairy tale. It's what they call a conspiracy theory."

Miranda pushed her chair back. "Just because you call something a conspiracy theory doesn't make it untrue."

With an air of correcting her, the boy Pierce said, "You think there aren't conspiracies, man? A world this big with this many people on it, this many countries and corporations and governments and religions and secret societies, you telling me there never was and never will be one single conspiracy?"

Drew wanted to hit him. Did he know who he was talking to?

"Of course there are conspiracies, but—"

"Well, shit, man, if there are conspiracies then there have got to be conspiracy theories, and some of those theories are going to be right. You can't just dismiss something by calling it a conspiracy theory ..."

But if the boy was now twenty, he would have been ten at the time of Holroyd. It was just like music: they heard a song on the radio and had no idea it was a cover of an oldie. They had no sense of history because they had no history. Maybe it was not their fault, but it was aggravating.

"When I was your age," he muttered, "I knew who the Beatles were, I knew who the Rolling Stones were, I knew who Roxy Music were, I made a point of finding out, I didn't just live in a perpetual present moment like some kind of bloody tadpole ..."

"But that's what we want," said Miranda, "is for people to find out, to not live in their little bubbles."

The boy flapped his hand in the air, as if she were out of order. "I know all that," he said to Drew, "but people need to wake up, they need to snap out of their little consensual daydream, you've got to stuff the truth down their throats raw, man, they won't swallow the pill themselves, it's not like Alice in Wonderland where whatever the queen says it's ..."

Drew fell into his chair, now ready to welcome an aneurysm or hemorrhage. He was no longer angry, only disheartened. He'd just spewed utter nonsense at them—and they had taken it in stride. They had not stared at him blankly; they had not even paused. They'd simply heard what they believed he must have been saying, so eager were they to continue the argument. To them, it didn't matter what he said. He was not there.

He nodded and shook his head and grumbled and looked stern and said he could see their point; and thus he confirmed their diagnosis and proved himself to be that stodgy old credulous conformist of the corporate media hegemony. At length Drew said, "Look, Pierce—"

"Pierce," said Pierce, as if correcting him.

"Could you give us a moment alone?"


"It's beginning to look like we're not going to arrive at any kind of understanding here, so could you leave me alone for a minute with my daughter, please?"

The boy's head recoiled slowly. To Miranda he said, "This guy's your dad?"

"Not exactly," she said. When the boy trudged out, wrapping himself righteously in his slicker, she stood and seemed about to follow him.

"Hold on a second."

"You didn't even let him finish," she said.

"For crying out fuck, Miranda, where was he going to go after chemtrails and fluoride? Neo-fascist dentists? The thirty-seven Jews? The Chinese controlling the weather? I've heard it all before, kid. What was he going to tell me about? Mind control?"

That flipped a switch in her. "Man," she cried, making fists as she spoke, "what is radio but mind control, what is television but mind control, what is the news but mind control? You only tell people what they want you to tell people, you only tell them the official version, it's the same story in every newspaper in every city in the country! Anything else, any dissenting view, any aberration in the data and it's: Sorry, we don't touch that, that's craziness, that's just conspiracy theory, that's nothing that anybody—"

"Okay okay," he said, making calming gestures. "I don't want to argue about it here. We can talk about it later. Tonight at home."

Her fists fell open and her shoulders drooped. "You know," she said, softly, "I really thought, from your letters, and your book ..."

But she didn't finish. Instead she sighed and walked out.

"You thought what?" he called after her.

Bye, Drew.