Sunday, July 8, 2007

Confrontation: A Chapter from "Saint George and the Dragon," A Novel of the Sixties





Confrontation: A Chapter from Saint George and the Dragon, A Novel of the Sixties



The following is a chapter of a novel of mine entitled Saint George and the Dragon. This is a story of the Sixties, and it’s a very personal one. I was born in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1955, at a time when, thanks to DuPont, Wilmington boasted the highest concentration of PhDs in the nation (even outranking Cambridge, Mass.). Unfortunately, all these PhDs (like my father) were in chemistry, and because these PhDs fathered very smart kids, and these very bright kids were trapped in a very uptight, repressive corporate technocracy, Wilmington produced more bomb-throwing radicals than any other place in the United States. I grew up in a Weatherman neighborhood. I went to kindergarten with Bucky Fine, who ended up on the FBI Ten Most Wanted List.


I began writing a novel at age 12 (inspired by my favorite TV show, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and completed it at age 15 in 1970. By that time I’d gotten the writing bug. By writing three to five hours a day, every day, I was able to produce several drafts each of nine novels. Some of these drafts numbered 500 single-spaced pages.


Since I was a huge James Bond/secret agent fan, four of these novels centered around a CIA agent named George Oldman Davis, who physically was clearly modeled on Lee Marvin, who I thought at the time was obviously the coolest man in the world. (I still think I’m right.) In September 1973 I entered Princeton University, and Nixon was falling. I’ll never forget Prof. John H. Marks of the Near Eastern Studies department (please see my Gilgamesh post), shouting to me from across a campus courtyard in October 1973, “The Vice President has just resigned!”


November 1973 was the tenth anniversary of the most significant event in postwar America—the JFK assassination. I’d become fascinated with the JFK assassination in high school—I actually read the Warren Report in tenth grade—because I realized it was the key event of my generation, and I wanted to understand it.

In 1974, a major Hollywood movie about the JFK assassination, Executive Action, starring Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan, was coming out.

As fate would have it, the novel Executive Action was co-written by Donald Freed, the radical playwright whom I ended up studying with at USC in the fall of 1985. Donald is the author of such notable works as Inquest (about the Rosenbergs), Secret Honor (about the downfall of Richard Nixon), Death in Washington (a first-rate nonfiction study of the assassination of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier), The Killing of RFK, Circe & Bravo, Veteran's Day, and The Quartered Man. I sought out Donald on purpose, as he seemed the writer in America who was doing the closest to what I wanted to.

Donald Freed's masterpiece: Secret Honor (1984), directed by Robert Altman and co-written with Arnold M. Stone, where Nixon (Phillip Baker Hall) confesses he was paid $1 milllion a year by Saigon heroin lords to keep the Vietnam War going

In the summer of 1974, I attended a summer school program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Putatively I was there to take a course on Texas History, but really I went to Dallas for six weeks in the summer of 1974 to research a novel on the Kennedy assassination. Fortunately, the novel died on the operating table—after a 500-page first draft!—but in the meantime, I shared a bathroom with the son of the Number Three man in the FBI, who was later accused of running death squads at Wounded Knee, Nixon resigned, I read the brilliant A Hall of Mirrors by Robert Stone (about a fascist radio station in New Orleans circa 1963), and one night at a Dallas drive-in, the FBI man’s son and I saw a double feature of Executive Action and WUSA, the 1970 movie adaptation of A Hall of Mirrors, starring Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, and Anthony Perkins, with a script by Robert Stone.


I quickly tossed the very bad JFK assassination novel out the window. If I wanted to capture what was going on in America at the time, I’d had to write something a little more realistic. Rather than a bullshit Lanny Budd novel about a Great Event, it would have to be a book about ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances, like A Hall of Mirrors. Thus was born Saint George and the Dragon.


Saint George and the Dragon was a rewrite of a George Oldman Davis novel I’d written back in 1970 entitled The Revolutionary, about a Weatherman chieftain and terrorist named Justin Wertham. Only this time, after having digested the events of the Sixties (the assassinations, the civil rights and Black Power movements, Vietnam), Watergate, and unfolding CIA revelations, I had a wild idea: what about a realistic account of a domestic operation of the CIA? Like a Che Guevara-style manhunt in the United States.


Back in eight grade, I had my life changed by a brilliant, visionary, apocalyptic history teacher named Ben Noice, a hardcore Spenglerian who taught us 13-year-olds in 1968 (when America was falling apart and exploding violently) about Toynbee, Freud, Jung, Halford Mackinder (the father of geopolitics), and Lord Alfred Mahan (The Influence of Sea Power Upon History). In 1972, he introduced us to The Limits of Growth, the Club of Rome's Malthusian book about how the world's resources were running out. In eight grade, he devoted a whole class section to the Kensington Stone, a purported Viking runestone found in Minnesota that was argued as evidence for pre-Columbian discovery; we used this as a test case for analyzing the accuracy of historical data. He made history a fascinating, intensely engrossing field that came alive.

Ben also taught us about an amazing European historian named Amaury de Riencourt, who in books like The Coming Caesar and The American Empire had predicted everything that was taking place right then in America in the anna terriblis of 1968. De Riencourt argued that the shattering precedent of political assassination was first practiced in Rome with the murders of the reformist Gracchi brothers (read: John and Robert Kennedy). But after the murder of the Gracchi came proscription (the drawing up of official hit lists) and the Marius and Sulla stage. The Roman Senate came to institutionalize political assassination—they called it the senatus decorum ultimum—and when Marius (LBJ) and Sulla (Nixon) waged their civil war with each other, political assassination became an accepted tool of problem-solving among the Roman power elite, and the Republic was doomed.


I was fascinated by this idea that America had already entered the Marius and Sulla stage, and I decided to make Saint George and the Dragon about a government pilot program to see if the powers that be could essentially bump off anyone they wanted to in the United States. It takes place in early June 1976, a month before the Bicentennial, and the government (read: the White House and the CIA) decides to pick an assassination target that nobody will miss: a former Weatherman chieftain turned revolutionary terrorist named Justin Wertham.

Mark Rudd, Weatherman chieftain, after the October 1969 Weatherman Nation Action in Chicago, known as the Days of Rage

I modeled Justin on Louis Lupin, a brilliant, charismatic high-school classmate of mine who's now an attorney on the West Coast


Justin broke away from the Weathermen in May 1970 after Kent State when he figured the Weathermen weren’t radical enough; instead, he created an elite cadre called Thunder (“When the weather gets bad, expect Thunder”) to bring horrific Algerian War-style terror to the United States, as punishment for Amerika’s murder of three million Indochinese between 1962-1975, its horrifying oppression of poor and minority groups, and the fact that the government has been trying to hunt him down and kill him (along with many other radical leaders) since 1968.


In 1970, Black Panther Fred Hampton was shot to death while sleeping in his bed by Chicago police after having been drugged by a police informant

That same year, after being wounded in a police shootout, Panther founder Huey Newton claimed he was handcuffed to a hospital gurney and beaten by Oakland police

Bernadine Dohrn, Weatherman chieftain, who engineered a palace coup and transformed the group into the female-dominated Weather Underground

The government suckers George Oldman Davies into taking the assignment. George, a 45-year-old counterinsurgency officer for the CIA who served in Vietnam and Latin America for many years, has been inactive for several years (in 1976) because of the “freeze” in black operations, owing to all the intelligence abuse scandals. George’s boss, Frank Carson (think Henry Fonda), cons him into believing that Justin and Thunder are going to try to assassinate President Gerald Ford when he delivers the commencement address at Parker College in New Day, Pennsylvania, a noted liberal arts college in suburban Philadelphia that’s clearly modeled on Swarthmore. It so happens that George’s estranged daughter, Angie, is about to graduate from Parker.

Beautiful Sixties actress Linda Harrison (Planet of the Apes, Bracken's World), who comes pretty close to my conception of Angie

From the beginning of the assignment, things go badly for George. He’s been promised airtight security by Frank, but when he returns to his Dupont Circle apartment after his briefing by Frank at Langley, he gets a threatening phone call from a Thunder operative. How the hell did they get his phone number? When he arrives at the New Day train station, two of Justin’s enforcers are waiting for him—Vietnam veterans who claim to have murdered a former Weatherman confidante of Justin’s, Timothy O’Toole.

The Weathermen, Chicago, Days of Rage, 1969

George fights off the two Thunder enforcers and finds his contact, Cindy Bishop, waiting for him downstairs in the train station waiting room.

Meet Cindy Bishop: Melanie Griffith in Night Moves (1976) comes pretty close to my conception of Cindy


Cindy is a Parker senior and campus informant who works for the FBI (she’s a “fink” and a former undercover high school nark), and Tim O’Toole had contacted her with news of some terrible act of terror that Justin is planning soon, but Tim disappears before they can meet; it’s assumed he’s been murdered by Thunder.

George drops in unexpectedly on his beautiful daughter Angie at her dorm and is shocked when she turns on him. She hasn’t seen him in years (she’s half-Mexican, and her parent divorced in Fifties), and she has come to realize, from all the strange postcards she gets from her father from around the world, that her father is a contract agent for the CIA. When you keep getting letters postmarked Retalhuleu, Guatemala (site of Trax Base, the CIA training camp for the Bay of Pigs in 1961), Vietnam, Bolivia, and Chile, you start to wonder.


Angie turns on him and screams at him how much she hates him, and by the way, she hates him so much that as a act of rebellion, she goes out and fucks every guy she can lay her hands on, picking up guys at the Student Union, banging their brains out, and then kicking them out in the morning.

George is freaked out—she’s also somewhat turned on by his beautiful young daughter, who is a spitting image of his gorgeous Mexicana ex-wife, whom he met while a private at Fort Bliss, Texas just before the Korean War—and he leaves her dormitory incredibly shaken. The war is coming home.


Local radical organizations are sponsoring a fundraising concert at Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium for the Elmo Lincoln Legal Defense Fund.

Elmo Lincoln is a Black Panther leader with close ties to Justin (Elmo Lincoln was the name of the first movie actor to play Tarzan, in the silents), and it’s expected that some Thunder personnel might be attending the concert surreptitiously. Cindy suggests to George that if he wants to meet Thunder people to flush out Justin, they should go.

At the concert, George is struck by just how angry and alienated America’s youth is, and he’s also disgusted by the whole Radical Chic aspect of the concert. (I based the concert on a Free Abby Hoffman concert I attended in 1976 in Madison Square Garden and Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review in the Garden the same year.)

After the concert, George and Cindy go to Parker College’s student center, which is called the Beer Hall. (Clearly I was thinking of Hitler and the Munich Beer Hall Putsch back then.) This is where our story begins.



* * * * *



9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 : Confrontation: 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9



After the rally, the Beer Hall was mobbed with excited youths. Inside, the floor of the campus pub was seething with the hot sweaty bodies of hundreds of Parker students who'd turned out for Justin and who'd just returned from Philly. While a mob clamored at the bar for beer, on the other side of the room, an impatient crowd gathered at a cash register was yelling for pizzas and subs. On the dance floor, energetic young couples were shaking and jerking to the pounding rock-and-roll blasting out of the massive amplifiers up on the stage, where a sweating band of local musicians was performing. Along the walls around the dance floor, intimate groups of kids sat at wooden tables and shouted over the loud music. The clamor in the place was deafening. It was a victory celebration, a war party.


Shouting over the din to make ourselves heard, Cindy and I agreed that while she got the beer and pizzas, I would go upstairs and find a table. Elbowing colliding bodies aside, I jostled my way through the roiling press and shouldered my way up the winding metal staircase. When a large drunken jock blundered into me while stumbling down the stairs, I threw him a murderous glare and he quickly apologized.


Upstairs, a wide gallery ran around in a circle above the dance floor; it was cluttered with tables around which beer-drinking kids were clustered. Even here it was packed. Over the railing you could look down and see the frenetic dancers. From the ceiling there hung by a brass chain a gigantic old chandelier that must have been made expressly for Douglas Fairbanks to swing from, circa 1925.

When I located an unoccupied table, I cleared off the trash covering it simply by sweeping it off with my hand and knocking it onto the floor, and pulled up a chair. Everything around was of dark wood or metal that blended in skillfully with the dim lighting. The hot smoky air pulsed with the roar of the overamplified music. When I looked around at neighboring tables, I saw would-be studs on the make with college damsels, lonely sensitive types with soulful calf eyes, drunken louts in football jerseys, crazed engineers, and hippies grinning in their beards. The orange tips of cigarettes and joints glowed in the darkness. In an alcove, mechanical youths stood stiffly before illuminated pinball machines, pulling and playing a vaguely masturbatory routine. In one corner, a gray TV screen flickered in the dark before a mesmerized audience.


Cindy appeared, bearing a brimming pitcher of beer in one hand and two chilled glass mugs in the other. While she set them down on the table, I grabbed her a chair and she said, "The pizza is on its way up," as she seated herself.

I poured beer into the two mugs, and because I was hot, tired, and thirsty, I quaffed mine in a few gulps and poured another. As Cindy sipped hers, she said, "So. What did you think of the rally?"

"I didn't know there was so much support for Justin. I had no idea the provinces were this rebellious. My God, do you know the kind of turnout Justin is going to get here Friday?" I leaned across the table. "We're going to have a rock-throwing crowd on our hands. Chances are there'll be a riot, certainly violence." Suddenly I sensed the intense presence of another person standing behind me, and when I turned around, I saw that a young man was standing at my shoulder. How long he had been listening I had no idea.

PJ: Seventies movie and TV actor Jan-Michael Vincent

With one hand stuck in the hip pocket of his blue jeans, he stood there looking me over, while with the other hand, he brushed back a stray lock of tousled blond hair. He was a golden boy, a tall broad-shouldered young Greek god with classic, chiseled features, an athletic physique, sun-yellow hair parted down the center of his scalp Dutch-boy style, and that unbearably engaging manner they all come with. He wore tight jeans faded to perfection, a red plaid flannel shirt, battered brown leather boots, and a wide bright empty smile. As a towhead, I was sure little old ladies had adored him.


But he was burning himself out now, with drugs most likely: speed, or heroin. Laid bare in the merciless glare of the dim overhead, his handsome TV star face resembled a naked skull. The damp bright brown glass beads of his eyes shone in dark hollow sockets, and the skin was pulled tight over prominent high cheekbones. In the shadows, the death's-head grin stretching across his face was ghastly. He carried with him the tangible presence of death.

"Who the hell are you?" I demanded.

"Hi Cindy," he grinned, "didn't expect to see you here."

"Oh hi, PJ," she said, a little taken aback by his presence. "Let me introduce you. George Davies, this is Peter Joseph Winter, an old friend of mine. PJ, George is a freelance journalist; he's here covering the President's appearance for the Sunday Times magazine."

"Real pleased to meet you," PJ said, shaking my hand, and sat down with us.

No sooner had he joined us than we were interrupted by a feminine voice. "So here you are, PJ. I was wondering where you'd gone."

Lovely Seventies icon Ali MacGraw

She was a knockout. She had the fresh, wholesome face of what the Irish call a macushla, a healthy girl too naturally lovely to need makeup.

She had that clean, scrubbed California look. She was the beautiful all-American girl you'd always wished really had lived next door. Her smooth chestnut-brown hair, parted down the middle, flowed over her shoulders down to the middle of her back, where the sun had bleached its tips white, and in her long-sleeved pinstripe blouse and macramé-belted jeans her luscious figure was stunning, small-breasted but perfectly proportioned. Even her feet, shod in leather sandals, were pretty. Her blue eyes were as bright as New England bone china, and her tender lips were as red and soft as the juicy flesh of a ripe plum. Her perfect retroussé nose was sprinkled with freckles.


As soon as I saw her, an overwhelming infatuation hit me like a thunderbolt. I had to have her. She was youth, grace, and beauty all rolled into one. A terrible desire seized me and I knew I wanted to get her more than anything else in the world.


"Hey, Cindy." She spoke in a sweet, liquid, musical voice. "Say, PJ, who's your friend?" She nodded to indicate me.

"Allow me to introduce myself," I said, rising. "George Oldman Davies."

"Susannah Novak. Please, call me Sue." We shook hands and she gave me a charming smile. I pulled out a chair for her and pushed it in for her.


Just as I was assuming my seat, a deep voice asked, "You people got any room for me?"

Spain Rodriguez, creator of the revolutionary Sixties underground comix hero Trashman (three drawings of Trashman follow)

The brawny young man who was the speaker could've passed as a latter-day Hercules. Gripping a frothy mug of beer, he stood by our table, which was getting a little crowded by now, with a cheerful grin, wearing a thick crown of curly black hair and sporting a respectable beard and mustache. His thick corded muscles bulged under his milk-blue T-shirt and tight dungarees. His broad acne-roughened face, with its brown eyes spaced slightly too far apart, was saved from a bovine appearance by high cheekbones, a rather flattened nose, and thin lips. He wore laced workboots, and strapped to one hairy wrist was a watch with a wide leather band. From a leather string around his neck hung a Russian Orthodox cross.


"Steve!" PJ slapped an empty seat beside him. "Steve, have a seat, man."

"Hey Sue, PJ. Hi Cindy."

Setting his mug down on the table, Steve offered me his hand. "Don't believe I've met you, sir. My name's Stephen Roz, call me Steve."

"George, George Davies." I smiled, gripping his big calloused muscle-padded hand. "I'm a reporter here covering the President's visit."

"That so?"

We had all settled down when a waitress appeared with our pizza. I paid, and the five of us got down to stuffing hot gooey pizza into our faces and washing it down with cold salty beer. In the course of our sloppy, tomato-splattered repast, I managed to elucidate something from the newcomers about their backgrounds.

All three were older than I thought. None were Parker students. All, interestingly enough, were twenty-eight. PJ was an itinerant rock guitarist and artist from New York presently at loose ends. Sue was a 1970 Berkeley graduate from Santa Barbara—a theater and dance major with a minor in political science—who was now PJ's live-in girlfriend. Rats. She was also a professed women's liberationist.


"Steve," I said, "are you a Ukie?"

"Yeah." He looked surprised. "How'd you guess?"

"The cross." I nodded to the Russian Orthodox cross around his neck. "I figured you were a Ukrainian-American."

"Yeah." He grinned, fingering the double-slatted cross. "I was named after St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr."

"Stoned to death in the Book of Acts," I said.

"That's right."

"Now Steve gets stoned to death in different ways," Sue said and everyone laughed.

"Where'd you grow up?"

"Jackson Township, New Jersey. Tiny Ukie community in South Jersey, the graveyard's full of crazy Russian Orthodox crosses. You know, with the cross-bar slanting down. Born and raised there. My parents were working-class folks."

"What did you do after high school?"

"I was drafted fresh out of high school." A dark scowl came over his face and he stared right at me. "In 1966. I was shipped off to Nam to fight in the two worst years of the shit. Boy, what a crock of shit." He toyed with his beer mug. "But now I'm livin' in Philly, got my own business. I'm a plumber."

"Good for you."

As we chatted and made small talk, PJ was sarcastic and facile and hip, Sue was charming and of course her beauty was magnetic, but I discovered it was Steve I was responding to. I liked him immensely. Working-class people and people from traditional societies I get along with the best. Suburbanites, Ivy Leaguers—the human products of twentieth-century technocracy—I can't stand; they're too goddamn relativistic to have any values. They believe in nothing, they're willing to fight for nothing.


But the folk—ah, there you have people with an ingrained sense of honor. A man slaps you and you shoot him. It's like the Old West. You slap a modern man and he stands around so long rationalizing his cowardice with his prissy liberal sympathy, you could rape his wife and he'd still forgive you on account of your crummy childhood. But with the plain people, you always know where you stand. Whenever I work in Third World countries, it's always the peasants I relate to the best. With their warmth, open faces, honesty, and innate generosity, they will always win my heart. After I get through machine-gunning them.

After a few more beers, I was getting pretty mellowed out—the fatigue of the day was also working on me. I sent Cindy out to fetch another pitcher of brew, then excused myself to go to the gents', where I leaned against the gleaming tile wall and drained the dragon. My head was feeling fuzzy, as if my brain might be packed with cotton. As I washed my hands in the sink, I grinned at myself in the mirror. I was happy. Life and I had come to terms.


When I rejoined our little group above the throbbing music, Cindy had returned, and I began to work seriously on the second pitcher. As I slung the frosty beer down my throat—ale a warrior's beverage since the days of the Vikings—I was dimly aware that I was getting high, but I didn't care. I was having a good time. I was even forgetting my depressing thoughts about Angie.


The conversation revolved to the Thunder rally, which it turned out everyone had attended. "Where were you, Cind?" PJ asked. "We were lookin' all over for you."

"I was with George."

"Oh," PJ said significantly, and winked.

"What did you think of the rally?" I asked them.

"They were telling it like it is." PJ nodded vigorously.

"It was right on," Sue said softly. "I dug it."

"I could get into what they were saying," Steve said. "One thing you have to understand, Mr. Davies, is that we were all growing up in the Sixties, so we were pretty seriously involved. And I think Justin's right. The system uses people like toilet paper, one wipe and flush. We tried to change things in the Sixties by bein' nice, and that didn't work."

"All the good guys got shot," PJ said. He looked around the table angrily. "If they ever got Justin, I swear to God I'd do a Jack Ruby on the dude who did it."


"I'll tell you what I'd really kill for." Steve lit a Marlboro. "These fucking oil companies. Boy are they taking us for a fucking. It's the most fucking outrageous ripoff I ever saw in my life. And they're making us thank them for it!" He blew smoke out. "I'll tell you, if Justin ever wanted some killing done, I'd be willing to go after some of these oil company executives. I'm serious."


"Maybe we should kneecap them like they do in Italy," Sue said, smiling cheerfully. "Form a citizen's action group. Call it the Sunoco Liberation Army."

"I belong to a union," Steve said, "and let me tell you, I've got first-hand knowledge that the system's rotten from top to bottom. And the corruption starts from the bottom up. The kickbacks, the payoffs, I know the kinda shit that goes on between union officials and local politicians. Democrat or Republican, don't make no difference, everyone's equally crooked. These guys in business suits who went to college give me a pain, coming on so superior, when I know for a fact they're just as corrupt as any workingman. The only thing about your average working man, you see, is that he's very materialistic, which is why you'll never have a revolution of the workers in this country."


"So if there's going to be no worker's revolt," I said, puzzled, "where is Justin going to get his revolution? How is the system going to be crushed?"

"Justin's biding his time," Sue said. "Waiting for the big international economic crunch to hit crisis proportions in ten years or so. When capitalism breaks down and there's a major depression, that's when we'll find people willing to listen. That's when the working class will get radicalized and see how the corporate capitalist system has been exploiting them all along, defrauding them through the mass media.

Justin's just waiting to harvest the grapes of wrath."

"But in the event of a major depression," I said, my head still fuzzy, "won't the middle class and the working class swing Right? Instead of Left?"


"People aren't fooled the way they used to be," Sue said. "Things have changed in this country since the Thirties. And Justin's willing to fight in the streets."

"Justin will win," PJ said. "Justin will show us the way."

"How in the hell can you say that?"

"It's evolution, man. We're in the last days of the dinosaurs. The dinosaurs—the cold-blooded monsters that've been ruling the earth since, like, the days of the Assyrians and all those guys, dig—they're finished. Their days are over. The ice age is setting in, man, and the warm-blooded creatures are taking over."

"That's the biggest bunch of bullshit I ever heard in my life," I said.

"One look at you, man," PJ said, gazing at me levelly, "and I can tell you're a dinosaur. Aren'tcha? You'd like to see Justin dead."

I stared at him, amazed, and tried to keep my jaw from dropping open.


"You see Justin's just a mutant, a forerunner, but his kind has been coming into vogue since—since when, Suzie? You know more about this kind of shit than I do."

"Since the Enlightenment," Sue said. "Since the French Revolution."

"Yeah, since the French Revolution. So the future is ours, baby. Us mammals, we may just be little guys, and you may laugh us off as furry little runts, but just you wait. Your days are numbered. Even now you're tearin' each other apart, your food supply is runnin' out. You may chase us away a few times, and you may even wipe out a few of our nests and then write us off, but you're getting slow and stupid, you've gotten too big and powerful for your own good. When you start getting sleepy we'll eat right through your ribcage, and when you get stuck in the quicksand we'll just sit back and laugh our asses off.


“You're being phased out, man. Before you know it we'll be breakfasting on your eggs, and then where will you be? So Justin's victory is like guaranteed. The weather is in his favor."

I was a little astounded. How would you to be told you're being phased out?

"You've got a lot of hate in you, don't you?"

"I got my head knocked in a couple times at antiwar demonstrations by horse cops when I was goin' to Columbia, man, so I can tell a pig when I see one. And you are definitely a pig."


Before I could react he turned to Cindy with a grin. "Hey Cind, what's with it with you tonight? You're not contributing to the discussion. Ain't you got any opinions?"

"I don't know what to think, really," Cindy said.

"Well you better make up your mind soon, 'cause the time is coming fast to stand up and be counted. Elmo's right—when the shit hits the fan, there'll be no room for fence-sitters."

Huey Newton, founder of the Black Panther Party

"What, what is this bullshit?" I spluttered, confused. "All this heigh-ho Up the Revolution horseshit? All you saw tonight was a variety show. Don't confuse it with reality. A revolution is not a dinner party. There were some exciting testimonials and a tape-recorded message from the guest star who was unable to make it and some nice songs at the end, but none of those people there ever fought in a shooting war. And as for the kids, it was just another rock concert; they were bored on a Tuesday night. I seriously doubt ten percent of them even ever held a gun. All they're veterans of are drugstores and shopping malls."

"Some of us have experience with guns," Steve said.

"Yeah, but you're in the vast minority, Steve. You're talkin' revolution—when I don't think those kids tonight have the stomach for the kind of bloodshed revolution entails."


"I read once about an old codger who hoped he never saw another Great Depression," Sue said, "because where his generation, in the Thirties, was wasn't afraid to die, this generation wasn't afraid to kill."

"Like the Manson Family," Steve said.

"Are you kids crazy? Even if there was some kind of armed uprising—even if urban guerrilla warfare did break out in the streets here in America—don't you think the government would crush the rebellion before it made the eleven o'clock news? Don't you think the government has means of suppressing insurgency?"


"As well as they did in Vietnam?" PJ suggested with a wicked smile.


"Don't be ridiculous, that kind of thing can't happen here."

"I don't know, I was around between '68 and '70, and even as recently as then, things were looking pretty interesting in this country. There was revolutionary potential there. People think it's gone away, because they wish it would, but they have short memories. You think the problems of the ghettoes have gone away, man? You think the kids are any more satisfied with the system? All that's happened in the Seventies is the rage has gone underground. Now the ghetto rioters are mugging people and the kids are doing drugs. All Justin has to do is to wait for things to get shittier—and they will, man, count on it—and then when things break open, he'll just have to step in and reap the harvest."

"Yeah, and I can just see you leading the mob storming the steps of the Capitol, waving a rifle in one hand and a revolutionary banner in the other, PJ. You're living in a pipe dream, kid. Wise up, the Sixties are dead, this is 1976."


"Let me ask you something: if Justin's just a figment of my imagination, then why is Uncle Sam having the GI shits over the Thunder National Action?"

"Don't judge his power by this private birthday party he's holding for himself. This reign of terror of his is his last gasp, it's an act of desperation. Deep down inside Justin wants to go out in a blaze of glory. Just you wait, I predict Uncle Sam will catch up with Justin soon and that will be the last we'll ever hear from him." Chuckling I downed another beer. "Yeah, he'll meet with a hunting accident."


"I'll bet you'd like that, wouldn't you?"

"Damn right, the little bastard's a menace to society. You can't let mad dogs like that run around loose. They've got to be hunted down and destroyed."

"That's sick. That's really sick," he said, shaking his head, "you know that? Then you wonder why Justin has to do the things he does. Justin's right—there's no dealing with your kind. Violence is the only talk you understand."


"Justin doesn't have to worry about it because pretty soon he's going to have his words shoved down his throat."

An L.A. SWAT team wipes out an SLA hideout in a fiery shootout, May 17, 1974

"Stick around. You might get an unpleasant surprise. The pigs have tried for him three times so far and each time he's slipped through their fingers. The last time, thirteen of the brothers sacrificed themselves so he could get away. Who among the pigs would do something like that for one of their brothers? Would you, pig? Justin will triumph because his heart is with the people, the people love him and respect him. You know what Mao says—a guerrilla swims among the people like a fish in the sea. That's why you'll never get Justin."


"And exactly just how is Justin gonna triumph, with the support of loyal disciples like you? Shit, kid, you can't hold down a job, much less uphold a cause. The past hour you been eating my pizza and drinking my beer and you give me this victory-is-ours crap? I mean, sure, Justin peddles a good line, but I've heard Jesus freaks with better spiels. What you've got to do, kiddo, is sit down with someone who cares about you, a doctor or one of your parents maybe, and clean this shit out of your head. Because it's impeding your progress. Snap out of it! Justin is old hat; take it from me, he's going nowhere. You see, the problem with you kids is, you don't know what the hell you're talking about."

"And you're the fucking voice of experience."

"I wasn't raised in a middle-class suburb. I was brought up during the Depression. I didn't have a mother and father to baby me and give me everything I hollered for. I didn't think I had it rough when I took cold showers in the wintertime. I wasn't provided with the luxuries of three square meals a day, a warm house, and free medical attention. I wasn't given spending money. I had to go out and work when I was twelve."

"George," he said with a vicious smile cutting in its sarcasm, "did you have an unhappy childhood?"


I gained to my feet swiftly, smashing my beer mug against the wooden edge of the table. Chunks of glass flew in all directions and everyone jumped.

"Get up," I said. "Get up and say you're sorry."

"George, you're drunk," Cindy said.

In one lunge I collared him and jerked him to his feet. "Come on, you little bastard, apologize!"

"Get your fuckin' hands off me."

"Make me." I gave him a shove and he fell back against his chair. "A real man would punch me out."


"I wouldn't hit a drunk old man."

"Drunk or sober, kiddo, I could take you on any day."

"Don't do it," Sue said to him.

"Shut up, Sue. PJ's his own man now, remember? He can make his own decisions."

Steve got up and stared at me hard. "Sit down, man. This has gone far enough."

"This is between PJ and me. I don't know what they do where you come from, but where I come from, when a man insults your honor either you get an apology or a fight. Well the little man here is too proud to say he's sorry, so I'm fixing to get myself a fight."

Steve reluctantly lowered himself back down in his seat. I know the way it's done in the Ukraine.


"Let's go, George," Cindy said, "this is getting ugly."

"Is he like this every night?"

I shoved him again. "You leave her out of this. You ain't gonna get any help from the ladies tonight, little man. You got anything to say, you say it to me."

"PJ," Sue said, "why don't you just apologize?"

"Because it would be phoney. I meant what I said. This old fart is just mad because this is the first time anyone's ever talked back to him."

"C'mon, PJ, don't you want to show off in front of your girl? Sue, you'd like to see him deck me, wouldn't you, prove what a man he is?"

"PJ doesn't have to prove he's a man," Sue said.

"Oh, I guess not. After all, he's a stud. He comes fully equipped with a coed's delight. Don'tcha, golden boy?"


"What is it, you've got to prove you're a hard man?"

"I just want to see if they handed you a set of cock and balls when they passed out the parts, 'cause as far as I can see, all you're showing is a slit. Say, why the hell you kids wear your hair like that? I'm callin' you faggot, boy."

"That won't work with me."

"If you're really serious about that revolution of yours, why don't you start with me? Surely a healthy young stud like you shouldn't have any trouble taking apart a broken-down old warhorse like me. C'mon, strike a blow for the people's struggle, hit me one."

"When we meet, man, I'll pick the time and place."

"No, I'll pick it, here and now. Either you're gonna slug me first or I'm gonna deck you; there's no third way. What is it gonna be?"

"Stop it," Sue shouted.

"I thought I told you to shut up. Now which is it gonna be, blondie?"


When he tried to ignore me by starting to sit down, I kicked the chair out from under him and shoved him to make him look at me. "Asshole, didn't you hear me? I'm giving you a chance to get the first punch in. Hey, you're not afraid of me, are you? Afraid I'll bash in your pretty-boy face?"

"I refuse to waste my time on you. I got better uses for my energy." He turned on his heel and started to leave.

"You're not gettin' off that easy," I shouted and lunged after him.

"Cool it, George." Steve blocked me, stopping me effectively.

"If I let him get away," I yelled, "the little son of a bitch will shoot me in the back!"

Sue jumped up from the table. "What a cheap bully you are, calling him out just so you could feel tough. Why don't you pick on someone of your own disposition?"


I was quick to defend myself. "That's not true, he started it!"

"PJ!" Sue began to follow him. "PJ, wait up!"


"Sue, Sue, don't go!"


She started to run. He was waiting at the stairwell for her.

"He was making fun of me," I shouted after her, "he was making fun of what I stand for."

I began to go after her but Cindy grabbed my arm and held it. "Let her go, George. She's his girlfriend."

To his retreating back I yelled, "Go ahead and run, you goddamn sneaky little weasel! Run like a fucking scared rabbit!"

"Hey George," Steve said, "hold it down, man, okay?"

When I glanced from Steve to Cindy, both were eyeing me with mingled pity, contempt, and disgust. "What happened? Why didn't she understand? I didn't call him out just to make a scene, he was mocking me."

"We know that, George," Cindy said, "but she's practically married to him."


"Oh."

"Well, I gotta bop now," Steve said. "See you, Cindy. Mr. Davies." He patted me on the shoulder. "Take care of yourself, okay man?"

"Sorry if I spoiled your evening."

"Nah, I can dig it, man. So long."

After Cindy departed I was left alone with the rubbernecking youths from the neighboring tables who were staring at the famous roaring drunk. I guess my voice kinda carries. When Cindy suggested it would be best if we left, I assented. Not only had I stirred up an ugly scene, but I had made an ass of myself in the bargain. But why hadn't Sue understood my position? Why had she run away from me?

Outside the chunky two-story stone structure that housed both the Beer Hall and the Student Center across the way from the main library (a granite tower), I weaved along the slate walks with Cindy in the warm evening air. The night was inordinately black, much too dark for my tastes. The taste of beer had soured in my mouth and I felt gay, high is the word. The campus was an alien place, even the pools of light collecting around the lampposts seemed strange.

The next thing I knew, I looked up from my big feet and we were at Cindy's door. When she asked me in, I consented, and I immediately steered for the bathroom to take a piss. After I emerged, she offered me a drink. There was no scotch, unfortunately, but there was bourbon, and so we both had bourbon on the rocks while sitting side-by-side on the sofa in the living room. In between sips, we held a post-mortem on the evening.

"Well," Cindy said. She was the first to speak. "Big day."

"Yes. And I'm drunk as a lord."

"Do you always act this way?"

"Now you're sounding like PJ."

"That doesn't qualify as an answer."

"Pray tell, what constitutes 'this way'?"

"Okay, do you always act like a fool? Is tonight a usual thing—can I expect this regularly in the future?—or is it an aberration?"

"No, tonight is one of my off nights."

"Then why are you behaving this way?"

"You said it, Cindy. You hit the nail on the old head. Today," I said, sipping my drink and smacking my lips, "has been a big day."


"Is there something bothering you?"

"You might say that." My daughter is a whore.


I wonder who's in her tonight.

"You really go for her, don't you?"

"Who?"

"Sue. It was written all over your face. You looked like the Big Bad Wolf, licking your lips over her."

"So? She's a pretty girl. Don't you like her?"

"George, she's young enough to be your daughter."

"What about my daughter?"


"I didn't know you had a daughter."

"Well now you do. What about my daughter?"

"I'm sorry, I didn't know."

"You leave my daughter out of this."

"I said I was sorry. No need to be so touchy."

Rising from the sofa I took my drink and paced the rug, but I got dizzy easily. I leaned against the wall next to the giant poster of Paul Newman, from which America's sex symbol smiled witty, charming, gorgeously handsome. A goddamn Yale man.


"So you like Paul Newman, do you?"

"Don't you?"

"I think he's too goddamn cute. Don't you think he's too goddamn cute?"

"Most girls like him."

"Most girls fuck too."

"So?" She gave me a funny look. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Well, it's true, isn't it? Don't most college girls fuck nowadays?"

"So I hear."

"Okay, I just wanted to get that straight, that's all."

"George, something's eating you. What is it?"

"I'm unloved and unwanted. Justin's ignoring me."

"You know, George, you were pretty scary tonight with PJ. Really, you alarmed even me. You were thirsty for blood. And all the while, I could sense this tremendous resentment coming off you, this incredible hostility looking for a target. What is it, George? What do you have to be so mad about?"

I plumped down on the sofa beside her. I stared straight ahead at the fucking wall.

"You've been through a lot, haven't you?"


"Yeah, I've seen a few things."

She reached out and squeezed my shoulder. "George, you're quite a guy. I like you."

In the background a clock ticked steadily.

"What time is it?"

"A little after one. Not too late. You could sleep here if you wanted to."

Her hand was warm on my shoulder; she kept it there. I could feel vague stirrings beneath my belt, but I decided they were only piss pains. She was a very pretty girl, and her face was turned up for me. I seriously considered bending down and kissing her. I tried to imagine our coupling in her darkened bedroom, her gasping hot in my ear, her eager young body shuddering under mine as she rushed to orgasm.

But through the alcoholic gaze a warning foghorn sounded. Uh uh, George. One case of the hots for a chickie is enough for one day. This is no time to start anything. It's very late and you're very drunk and it's time a growing red-blooded American boy like you was in bed. Alone. Besides, you're probably too drunk to get it up.


"Thanks for the offer, Cindy," I said, gaining to my feet, "but I really should be in my motel room in case Schaeffer calls. Anyway, the FBI is paying for the room and I wouldn't want to waste the taxpayer's money."

Cindy stood up. "I was just thinking of saving you the walk back."

"It's all right, I can make it by myself. I'm all right now."

Taking my arm, she escorted me to the door, and after mumbling goodbye I shuffled out.

Outside, true pandemonium reigned. All over campus, young voices were calling out; their echoes were incomprehensible to be. New Year's Eve horns were blowing madly, rock music was blasting out of dormitory windows, dormitories were ablaze with light, and even a gun report rang out. The walks were littered with beer bottles and trash. Far off I could see small packs of kids roaming the campus, whooping and hollering, and I watched them scatter. What was it, some kind of huge party? What was the occasion for celebration?

A boy with long brown hair in a ponytail and a mustache skipped by, yelling, with his shirttails flapping behind him. Stopping him I asked, "Hey, what's all the shouting about? There a heavyweight championship tonight?"

"No!" he said, panting, in a hoarse voice. "Didn't you hear the news? Thunder struck again! Another pig shot down in New York, and in California a bomb blew up the city hall or something!"

His exclamation was punctuated by a second gunshot.

He ran off yelling, "Justin marches on!"


* * * * *

Trashman on the job

Spain's eyewitness account of the August 1968 Chicago police riot




Comments from readers are always welcome. You can reach me at: wolcottwheeler@gmail.com

If you're a publisher or editor who might be interested in publishing my novel Saint George and the Dragon or seeing additional chapters, please feel free to contact me at: wolcottwheeler@gmail.com


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