Losing Tuesday

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I wait at Jack’s for my client, glad he’s late because I can have one or two more doubles before we get to business. The shakes were bad this morning, so it took more than usual for me to feel like myself.

I see him come in, shake his hand.  I suggest a drink before the menus. He orders a light beer, so I do too.

Then I excuse myself and stop at the bar on the way to the restroom.

Suddenly I’m staring at this filthy coffee table, no recollection of where I am or how I got here.

 

Friday Fictioneers

Quedar El Rabo Por Desollar

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“Introduce yourself, please.”

The man stood up. He was younger than many attending the meeting. “My name is Serafin Martinez. I am a mechanic.”

“And how many do you represent?”

“Myself and nine others at our shop.”

“And your affiliation?”

“We are anarchosyndicatists.”

“And your foundational ideology?”

“We believe that any hierarchy that cannot be ethically justified must either be dismantled or replaced by decentralized egalitarian control.”

And so it went, one man after another standing up and declaring his trade and ideology. No two groups were exactly alike, though the overarching goals were much the same. They all sought to empower the workers and create a balanced society.

Ruiz watched them and sipped his coffee. He knew from bitter experience that these minor differences would be exploited by the powerful. The divisions would be widened. Leaders would be bribed or coerced, beaten or even killed.

Thus is was. Thus it always shall be.

What Pegman Saw: Montevideo, Uruguay

Note:

The Latin American Labor Congress met in Montevideo in May of 1929 to discuss ways of improving life across all of the Latin American countries. The meeting was considered a rousing success, with charismatic leaders outlining the plans to help bring sweeping change to the region though extensive unionization and collective bargaining with corporations and oligarchical institutions.

In October of that year, the American stock market crashed and took with it much of the global economy. A decade later came World War Two followed by the invention of the CIA, an organization with the principal task of enforcing the virulently anti-Communist policies of the United States (much of which orginated with American corporations who despise organized labor). Though the CIA was deeply involved in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, their principal focus was and is Latin America.

At the time of this writing, 42 individuals hold as much wealth as 50% of the global population. This economic imbalance, already the greatest in the history of humanity, grows larger by the minute. 

The title is a Spanish idiom meaning “the hardest part of the task remains to be accomplished.”

Before The Coroner Was Called

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I take my coffee out onto the front porch to watch the neighborhood go about its morning.

I don’t know my neighbors’ names, but I know their weekday routine.

The red Volvo full of kids, the bike commuter with the metal clips on his trouser-legs, the old woman across the street feeding the swarm of cats.

Except today she’s late.

The cats wind around the front door, waiting for her to open her screen and set out the paper plates.

I finish my coffee and go inside.

Throughout the day I peer through the front window.

The cats are still there, waiting.

Friday Fictioneers

NOTE: The virtual host where this site is located is having some major issues today connecting to the WordPress website, so the comments aren’t working. Thanks for coming by, though. -JHC

Damn The Canons

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He’d lost a lot of jobs, especially at first. When he bucked at what he considered a shit assignment, the editor told him an abrasive manner did not suit a cub reporter and fired him on the spot.

After that he’d drifted around freelance for some years until he’d finally had enough.

He moved to a big city and took a job as a stringer. He stuck it out. He worked his way up through crime and city government, did a stint on late-edition rewrite until finally he’d had the luck to land a few great stories and win a few awards.

Those days, most people got all their news from one newspaper, or maybe two. You had a responsibility to the truth, to act independently, to minimize harm.

It was a sacred charge, the fourth estate.

You became an eyewitness to what was really happening.

But none of it mattered now, not even grammar.  Nobody cared about anything but money.

 

What Pegman Saw: Rawson Lake

The Canons of Journalism from the American Society of Newspaper Editors (1923)

The primary function of newspapers is to communicate to the human race what its members do, feel and think. Journalism, therefore, demands of its practitioners the widest range of intelligence, or knowledge, and of experience, as well as natural and trained powers of observation and reasoning. To its opportunities as a chronicle are indissolubly linked its obligations as teacher and interpreter.

To the end of finding some means of codifying sound practice and just aspirations of American journalism, these canons are set forth:

I. RESPONSIBILITY: The right of a newspaper to attract and hold readers is restricted by nothing but considerations of public welfare. The use a newspaper makes of the share of public attention it gains serves to determine its sense of responsibility, which it shares with every member of its staff. A journalist who uses his power for any selfish or otherwise unworthy purpose is faithless to a high trust.

II. FREEDOM OF THE PRESS: Freedom of the press is to be guarded as a vital right of mankind. It is the unquestionable right to discuss whatever is not explicitly forbidden by law, including the wisdom of any restrictive statute.

III. INDEPENDENCE: Freedom from all obligations except that of fidelity to the public interest is vital.

1. Promotion of any private interest contrary to the general welfare, for whatever reason, is not compatible with honest journalism. So-called news communications from private sources should not be published without public notice of their source or else substantiation of their claims to value as news, both in form and substance.

2. Partisanship, in editorial comment which knowingly departs from the truth, does violence to the best spirit of American journalism; in the news columns it is subversive of a fundamental principle of the profession.

IV. SINCERITY, TRUTHFULNESS, ACCURACY: Good faith with the reader is the foundation of all journalism worthy of the name.

1. By every consideration of good faith a newspaper is constrained to be truthful. It is not to be excused for lack of thoroughness or accuracy within its control, or failure to obtain command of these essential qualities.

2. Headlines should be fully warranted by the contents of the articles which they surmount.

V. IMPARTIALITY: Sound practice makes clear distinction between news reports and expressions of opinion. News reports should be free from opinion or bias of any kind.

1. This rule does not apply to so-called special articles unmistakably devoted to advocacy or characterized by a signature authorizing the writer’s own conclusions and interpretation.

VI. FAIR PLAY: A newspaper should not publish unofficial charges affecting reputation or moral character without opportunity given to the accused to be heard right practice demands the giving of such opportunity in all cases of serious accusation outside judicial proceedings.

1. A newspaper should not involve private rights or feeling without sure warrant of public right as distinguished from public curiosity.

2. It is the privilege, as it is the duty, of a newspaper to make prompt and complete correction of its own serious mistakes of fact or opinion, whatever their origin.

DECENCY: A newspaper cannot escape conviction of insincerity if while professing high moral purpose it supplies incentives to base conduct, such as are to be found in details of crime and vice, publication of which is not demonstrably for the general good- Lacking authority to enforce its canons the journalism here represented can but express the hope that deliberate pandering to vicious instincts will encounter effective public disapproval or yield to the influence of a preponderant professional condemnation.

Blackberries

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The blackberries had overgrown Wayne’s entire yard, twining their malevolent thorns between fences and over trees, consuming the patio furniture and even reaching into the house.

Weed killer did nothing, and his pallid attempts to trim it only resulted in broken clippers and a severe rash. He found a Craigslist ad for yard clearing and told the man his problem.

Wayne expected him to bring some kind of heavy clipping machinery, but what arrived was a pickup truck full of machete-wielding Hondurans. They leaped out and attacked the blackberries with warlike efficiency, immune to the scratches, laughing as they worked.

 

Friday Fictioneers

The Impossible City

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You believe that you live in one world, he said. A world where fiction and fact are different. Separate, like rooms in a house. You pass from one to the other and only think of the doorway.

I don’t understand, I said. What does this have to do with what I saw last night?

He drew a deep breath, as though preparing for physical exertion. Here, he said, it is not like that. In Kinshasa they are not rooms in a house, but fingers on a hand. They work in tandem without knowing. They rely on one another. Do you see?

It seemed like a dream, I said.

And so it was, he said. And also was not. May I ask you this: why did you come here?

I can’t remember. I must’ve had a reason.

So you did, he smiled. But now you have another, if you wish it.

 

 

What Pegman Saw: Kinshasa, DRC

This story is inspired by Kinshasa: Tales of the Invisible City, by Filip De Boeck and Marie-Françoise Plissart.

“The second world is the one of the invisible,” says one inhabitant of Kinshasa, “and those who live in it and know are those who have four eyes, those who can see clearly both in the day and the night. Their eyes are a mirror. The man with two eyes only cannot know this world. The second world is superior to ours.”

A Dismal Sheen

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He led me blindfolded onto the quay. “I know you bought a boat, Seth.”

“Humor me,” he said. We walked across the dock, the boards tilting and bouncing. “Ok. You can take it off now.”

He stood on the bow of a gleaming sailboat, grinning all over his face like the boy I’d married. “Ta-da!”

He gave me a tour of the cabin, showed me the charts of the trip he’d planned for us.

“But you don’t know the first thing about sailing,” I said.

“I’ve been taking lessons. We’ll be fine.” He put on a skipper’s cap. “Dashing, no?”

 

Friday Fictioneers

 

With sloping masts and dipping prow, 
As who pursued with yell and blow 
Still treads the shadow of his foe, 
And forward bends his head, 
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast, 
And southward aye we fled. 
And now there came both mist and snow, 
And it grew wondrous cold: 
And ice, mast-high, came floating by, 
As green as emerald. 
And through the drifts the snowy clifts 
Did send a dismal sheen: 
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken— 
The ice was all between.

-From Coldridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Starvelings

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It is always night in the jungle. Mosquitoes whine in my ears. The heat feels like a damp blanket. I can’t breathe.

And they are coming. We can’t see them, only hear their horrible yelling and screaming in the dark. Where are they? Where the fuck are they?

I bolt awake, rub my grainy eyes as I look around. I’m in the stadium with the rest of the battalion, row upon row of sleeping Marines stretched out on cots where they took out the seats for us. My hand shakes, but at least the malarial fever seems to be gone now.

Yesterday as we shuffled down the gangplank of the West Point, I overheard an old Aussie man say we looked like starveling paupers. I suppose anyone would after five months on Guadalcanal.

A convoy of trucks brings the seabags we’d stored in Aukland an eternity ago. We try not to look at the huge pile that remains unclaimed, their owners in graves or hospitals.

What Pegman Saw: Melbourne

 

After the brutal campaign on Guadalcanal, the Marine First Division needed rest and recuperation. “Bring your lads here,” said the city of Melbourne, “so we can thank them in person.” 

On Jan. 11, 1943, the first contingent of Marines began disembarking from the transport USS West Point in Melbourne. 

To the sick and weary men who had spent a half year fighting in impassable jungle and swamps that crawled with leeches, venomous snakes, poisonous spiders, scorpions, centipedes and clouds of malaria-bearing mosquitoes, the bustling city of Melbourne seemed like another world.  

It was the beginning of a love affair between U.S. Marines and Australia that never has ended.

 

Malinger

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Kenny held his reading lamp to his forehead until the last possible minute. He heard her coming down the hall and switched it off.

His door opened and she put her head in. “Up and at ‘em. You’ll miss your bus and I can’t take you.”

“I don’t feel well,” he croaked. “My head hurts.”

She came to the bedside and felt his head. “You’re a little warm.”

“I feel like I’m burning up.”

“I don’t have time to find the thermometer,” she said, exasperated. “I’m late as it is.”

“I need to throw up.”

“Jesus. Not on my dress.”

 

Friday Fictioneers

 

Tools Down

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Captain Truxtun could hardly contain his agitation. “They what?” he stammered.

“Refuse to work, begging your pardon,” said the foreman.

“All of them?”

“Yes sire. To a man.”

“And what is their complaint?”

The foreman shrugged. “What ain’t their complaint is more to the mark. I think this time it has to do with cocoa instead of coffee. Last time it was about working on a saint’s day.”

The captain pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. The frigate, one of six commissioned by Secretary Knox and President Washington, was already over budget. He could not afford to have it run over schedule as well.

“Would a rise in pay ameliorate this… lack of coffee?”

The foreman swallowed this unfamiliar word but took its meaning at once. “I reckon it couldn’t hurt, sire.”

The captain reached for a pen and did not see the foreman licking his lips.

 

What Pegman Saw

In 1794, the United States Congress authorized the construction of the USF Constitution, the USF Chesapeake, the USF Constellation, the USF President, the USF United States, and the USF Congress. These were heavy frigates – longer and faster than the conventional frigates of their day, armed with up to fifty 24-pound cannon and constructed of stout oak from the Ohio Valley. Though strong, they were much faster than 74-gun ships of the line. In the early battles of the War of 1812, they proved themselves superior to the once-indomitable Royal Navy. It was a triumph of design and technology and put the new United States on the map as a military power, allowing safe convey of merchantmen and whalers across the seas as well as suppressing the Barbary pirates. 

The six frigates were also significantly over budget and delivered later than anticipated, a tradition proudly upheld in military contracting to this day.