Saturday, March 27, 2010

Census Violence

Fort Braggart, East Carolina. The Census Bureau. 0930 hrs.
"So what brings you in today?" asked the man across the desk from me.
"Well, Mr.--" I glanced at his name tag. Gonzales. "José. I saw your ad in the paper for part-time census takers, and it said it was a perfect job for retirees, students, and out-of-work mercenaries."
"I see," José said. "And how long have you been retired?"
"I'm not retired. I'm a mercenary. Un hombre de action."
"My apologies," José said. "It's just that you're so old and fat, I naturally..."
"No apology necessary; I get that all the time. Just tell me about the job."
"Certainly." He adjusted his glasses. "As you may know, it's believed that our minority and immigrant populations have been under-represented in previous censuses. Censii? Whatever. And we're sending out extra census takers to go into minority neighborhoods and identify these citizens."
"Smoke 'em outta their holes," I said, nodding.
"Um...I guess that would be a way of putting it, pendejo. It's been hard to find enough workers for these roles, because the neighborhoods involved are terrifying. But for you, a mercenary...No problem. Basically you go door-to-door and find out who lives there along with some basic demographic information." He raised an eyebrow. "Does that sound like something you could do?"
"Sure," I said. "Re-con areas suspected of harboring minorities. Locate, identify, and interrogate suspected minority and or immigrant residents. Communicate to these suspects the policy of the United States government vis-a-vis census procedures and participation in same."
"They're not suspects, cabrón. They're people. We're trying to help them."
"Sure, José. I'll help them...and then deal with targets of opportunity as they present themselves. So what does this gig pay?"
"The starting rate is fifteen dollars an hour, but in your case we're willing to pay considerably less."
"How much less?" I narrowed my eyes like George W. Bush staring down a polecat.
"Minimum wage," José said, half-smiling.
"Fine."
"Mexican minimum wage," José added.
"Even better," I said, though later I would find out my mental conversion of pesos to dollars had been slightly inaccurate.
"Great, then you will start tomorrow." He scrawled my name on a badge and handed it to me along with a map. "You will be going door-to-door in my favorite neighborhood, McFab. We Latinos call it 'El barrio que no es muy mala pero es un función de a qué hora del día en que ir allí y si son mexicanos o negro o blanco, o lo que sea del tipo y, a veces, hay venta de drogas, pero la mayoría sólo la marihuana por lo que no es tan malo como sería si se tratara de crack o algo, pero aún creo que es un mal tipo de barrio, ahora que lo pienso.' Or 'West Fort Braggart,' for short."
"I know West Fort Braggart," I said. "I accidentally drove through there once on my way to East Fort Braggart."
"Then you'll have no--immediate--problems," José said. "Good luck tomorrow, my friend. Or as we say in Spanish, me cago en ti." He beamed and shook my hand.
"May cargo entity," I repeated back to him. I finally had a job.

The next day. 1330 hrs.
My job description said "part time," so after clocking in at the bureau in the morning I drove to my favorite strip club and nursed a few Zimas until mid-afternoon. One last suspiciously-long visit with the men's room, and it was soldiering time. I paid my tab, tipped Amber an extra five bucks to put towards her harelip operation, and left The Petting Zoo for my recon of West Fort Braggart.

West Fort Braggart. 1350 hrs.
The barrio. It was like Hell, only with more Mexicans and fewer Irish.  Graffiti covered most of the barred, boarded, partially-burned -- yet strangely still open -- businesses.  The sidewalks were littered with tortillas and discarded sombreros, or maybe just plain trash.  Who could tell in this foreign world?
Luckily I blended in, having decided to wear local attire in order to build trust with the inhabitants.  Even more luckily, I already owned a black cowboy hat, shiny dress shirt with rose embroidery, a dinner-plate-sized belt buckle, black jeans, and boots with silver tips. What I wore only to funerals, the latinos wear every day. Added to the outfit was my mercenary's facility with language.  Most likely, no one I contacted would even suspect I was American.
I checked my field-expedient GPS -- or crudely-drawn map, as some call it -- and headed for the first address on my list.

1350 West Pine.  1400 hrs.
 The house looked like any house in a normal neighborhood, a tidy little one-story with a fresh coat of white paint.  A clever disguise if one were an illegal alien attempting to blend in. I knocked on the door.
He was older than me, maybe sixty, and wore a sweater and khakis.
"Good day sir," I said, and then leaned closer, lowering my voice.  "It's okay, I'm Mexican, too.  I know we all secretly speak English."  I pointed out my Stetson and belt buckle.
"Ah.  Welcome then, brother." He held up a hand.  "Not inside.  Just the porch.  Welcome to my porch."
I held up my clipboard, the symbol of authority held in awe by all cultures.  "I'm here with the Cens--Ceen-sus Bureau.  We're making sure everyone, even illegal immigrants--like myself, brother--gets counted.  It will help us collect welfare and take jobs from American mercenaries.  I mean fat cats."
"Ah, yes.  Our plot to take jobs." He winked and nodded.  "So what do you need to know?"
"Let's start with name," I said. "Not your street, or 'gang' name.  Real name please favor."
"Abraham von Ribbentrop-Sanchez," he said.  "And by the way, you are...?"
"Please forgive me," I said, writing his name in the boxes on my form.  "I am Señor Don Jefe Ronaldo McFabuloso."
"Your accent," von Ribbentrop-Sanchez said.  "You must be from southern Mexico?"
"My family swam here many years ago," I said. "And to my shame, I have picked up the accent of our superiors, the Gringos."
"Ees no problem.  It suits you," said von Ribbentrop-Sanchez.
"Great. Next question." I pretended to consult my papers. "You're an illegal alien, aren't you?"
"What? May I see that form?"
"No, uh...That question was later, sorry. Um..." This time I did check the form. "How many people live in this household?"
"Seventeen. No pets."
This guy was dirty, I could smell it.  Then I realized I hadn't showered in days.  Still, if I could apprehend an actual illegal immigrant and turn him over to ICE, they might just make me an agent, or at least give me my passport back.  I just hoped he didn't put up a fight.  I had a water gun filled with urine in a hideaway holster behind my back, and I didn't want to have to use it again that day.
"So Señor von Ribbentrop-Sanchez," I said,"these seventeen people, as we'll call them, how are they related to you?"
He thought for a moment. "Well, let's see.  Eleven are illegitimate children I've spawned with white women, four are Columbian drug lords, and then there's the wife and me."
My God. This guy was dirtier than I could have imagined.  Drug lords.  White women.  Nailing this guy would make me the most famous unemployed mercenary in the world.
"Look, mi amigo," I said. "I know you're illegal, and ees no problema.  Actually, for every illegal immigrant in the household, you get a...free goat.  So let's just round up the household and head to the Goat Wagon--" I pointed to my mother's minivan, parked at the curb, "--for some free government goat."
"Mr. McFab," the suspect said, "I believe it is Randall McFab? Did you not appear at a Fort Braggart City Council meeting in October of last year, demanding an ordinance be passed outlawing, as I recall, 'People Talking Funny, Like with Accents and Stuff.'?"
"Uh...Yes, but..." How could he possibly know about that dark day in American politics?
"And do you remember," he continued, "being ridiculed particularly harshly by Councilman von Ribbentrop-Sanchez?  Perhaps not, because you were quite obviously drunk at the time."
"I...I..." How could I have failed to identify him? I'm a trained mercenary, a graduate of Patriot Mercenary Training Internet University.  Then again, I was drunk when I went before the Council and proposed what I now concede was a slightly racist law.  And besides, they do all look alike...
"Seriously, McFab," he went on, "how many von Ribbentrop-Sanchez's do you think there could possibly be?" He shook his head slowly.  "I'm going to do now what I wanted to do at the Council meeting," he said.  "I'm going to punch you."
I reached for the water gun, but I was too late.

The McFab compound.  Sometime the next day.
I lay on the couch in our double-wide,  a bag of frozen peas to my forehead.  Momma flopped down in the recliner, shaking the trailer, and delivered the latest news.
"Well, honey," she said, "I talked to Sheriff Peeler and he says there ain't much point in pressing charges, on account of that dirty Sanchez fellow is a councilman and the whole town hates you.  Oh, and he asked if ya'll is still goin' fishin' at Troutworm Lake next Saturday?"

"Yeah, I reckon," I said.  "Did he say dynamite or electric?"

Thursday, May 08, 2008

No Stinking License

Fort Braggart, East Carolina. The Department of Motor Vehicles. 0800 hrs.
The place was packed, but I was first in line. I had been second in line until the old bat in front of me decided to go home and nurse her severed hamstring, and as they opened the doors I congratulated myself on never forgetting to travel without a knife.
I shouldn't have to be here anyway, I thought, looking around at the motley crowd assembled to renew--or gain their first--driving priviliges. I've been driving my entire adult life--often with a license to do so--but that didn't matter. The liberal judge I faced last year decided to "interpret" the Constitution as liberal judges do, and I ended up with a year's driving suspension due to some technicality about operating a vehicle while drunk and bleeding. Now I had to take the driving test all over again to get my license back, like some common sixteen-year-old. Speaking of which...
"Hey there honey," I said to the teenage girl behind me in line. "You familiar with the mercenary position?"
"Predator!" she yelled, pointing. Luckily my name was called just as the crowd moved in on me.
"Randall Nathaniel McFab?" I walked up to the counter and faced the DMV worker. He was young, maybe 30, and suspiciously tan. That usually meant gay, foreign, or...both.
"I'm McFab," I said. "Just give me my license, and a helicopter rating while you're at it. I learned to fly 'em watching Rambo."
"Oh, it's not that easy, Mr. McFab," he said, chuckling.
"I wasn't joking, Pedro. If you watch Rambo one frame at a time you can actually learn to fly a Cobra. Maybe you should try it."
"My name isn't Pedro," he said, a bit huffy in my opinion. "I am officer Saddam Al-Qaeda Bin Laden of the East Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles." He pointed to his badge, which just read, Holy Fuck! That's really your name?
"Holy fuck," I said, "that's really your name?"
"Yes, yes, I know..." he said. "When my parents named me, your government was giving weapons and money to all of those people. Seemed reasonable and patriotic at the time. You may call me Jihadi of Allah if it makes you more comfortable, or...Brad. I also go by Brad."
"Brad sounds kinda gay, Jihadi. Let's get on with this. I need my license back."
"Of course, just a few preliminary..." He inspected my birth certificate, apparently surprised it was printed on blood-stained camo. "You are Randall Nathaniel McFab, son of Nathaniel Randall McFab and 'Mama' McFab, correct?"
"Yes."
He typed into a computer. "And your date of birth?"
"I'm 27."
He looked at me and chuckled. "Oh, sir, we have it all here, and your bald head..."
I told him my date of birth, and he shook his head sympathetically.
"Very very good, sir," he said. "One more formality before the driving test. You just need to look into here," he said, pointing out a device on the counter, "and read aloud the letters you see."
"What, are you saying I'm illiterate?" I demanded.
"No sir, it is for vision, you know...a man your age..."
I put my nose up against the device and peered into the eye-holes, hoping it might at least have pictures of naked chicks or something. Instead, it was filled with bizarre, blurred characters...almost as if...
"You bastard!" I stepped back from the counter and levelled my gaze at Jihadi. "You're testing Americans with Arabic letters? It's come to that now, has it?"
"No sir, I--"
"People!" I said, turning towards the long line behind me. "America has been co-opted by the Islamo-facists. It's not enough that we have to suck up to the A-rabs for gas, now we have to read their pagan language just to get a driver's license!"
The crowd indicated they were with me by their silence, though I did hear a "shut the fuck up" and a "you're holding up the line!" from the liberals in attendance.
"Sir," Jihadi said, "perhaps if you tried again with your glasses...The glasses specified as necessary on your last driver's license."
So that's how it was. He wanted to see a handicapped American. Fine, let him get his kicks. I pulled my glasses out of my ankle sheath and peered into the device again with the specs on.
"Hmm..." I said, "It's in English now. Must have switched it on me...Okay, 'I..A...M...'"
"Keep going," Jihadi said.
"'A,'" I said, still reading, "'P...R...I...C...K.'"
"Yes!" Jihadi said. "You have passed the vision test and I daresay demonstrated a healthy self-awareness. All that is left, " he said, lowering his voice, "is the driving portion."
"You're not the driving tester, are you?" I asked, hoping against hope.
"No sir," Jihadi said, "the driving tester is an American just like you. Meet her outside in the parking lot." He handed me a slip of paper and I headed outside.

Fort Braggart, East Carolina. The Department of Motor Vehicles. 1100 hrs.
I waited outside for two hours with no tester and no vehicle in sight. I was about to go back in and demand an explanation when an early-nineties Mercury Cougar with 20-inch rims drove up to the curb, a bass beat from its stereo shaking both me and the windows of the DMV office. I would have assumed the car was being turned in as not roadworthy were it not for the "DMV Test Vehicle" signs magneted to the doors.
The tinted driver's side door opened and a large black woman stepped out, her fishnet-clad ankle the size of my thigh. Though the cheetah-print skirt and black half-top slimmed her some, she easily went a good two-and-a-half bills.
"'Sup, Playah?" She asked, or said...I wasn't sure which.
"I...I'm supposed to take a test?" I held out the form I'd been given.
"I'm Tykeesha," she said. "I be testin' you." She took the form and stuffed it into her ample cleavage, where it disappeared. "Ah-ite. Let's roll." She waddled to the passenger side and I got in the driver's seat.
"How do you adjust this?" I asked, fishing for the lever to bring the seat forward. It was so far back and down, I was practically in the back seat and could just see over the dashboard.
"What?"
"How do you..." I turned the music down, too late for one of my fillings which I swallowed politely. "The seat, I--"
"You don't wanna look like a bitch, do you?" she asked. "Drivin' all up on the windshield like a gram-mamma?"
"No, I guess not."
She made a note on her clipboard and I glanced over. Doesn't wanna look like a bitch, she had written. "Ah-ite," she said, "start it up and pull up in the skreet."
I started the car and turned left onto the skreet.
"Now," she said, "what's the first thing you look for?"
"Prostitutes," I answered honestly.
"That's a good answer," she said, marking the clipboard, "but I mean before you start lookin' for ho's. You look for the five-o."
"Ah, the police," I said, making sure to maintain a safe speed. "Yes, I wouldn't want to get a ticket."
"Nah, nah," she said, "you don't wanna get caught rollin' dirty."
"Rolling dirty? You mean with the illegal firearms and explosives I often carry in my mom's vehicle?"
"Yeah, playah, dat shit." She scribbled on the clipboard some more.
"No worries," I said, "the police don't even know I've been driving around drunk without a license virtually every day since my D.U.I."
"Word, mofo," she said solemnly. "Word."
"Word to your mother," I grinned. This was going to be easy. "Word to your mother."
We carried on down the road a bit and she pointed ahead. "Construction zone," she said, "what do you do here?"
"Get my crunk on," I said, pulling a Zima out of my trousers and opening it with my teeth. I drained the bottle in two or three swallows.
"'Das what I'm talkin' 'bout, playah," she said.
We drove on, approaching a school zone. "Ah shit," I said, speaking her language. "Fifteen miles an hour up in here. I gotta be high to drive that slow!" I took a tube of toothpaste out of my trousers, squirted some into a pyrex pipe, and set my lighter to it.
"Goddamn!" Tykeesha exclaimed. "You smokin' toothpaste?"
"Hell...yeah..."I said, as the Crest hit me, hard. The road up ahead turned sharply, and merged into a yellow-brick rainbow in the clouds so pretty color fast now...

Fort Braggart, East Carolina. The Department of Motor Vehicles. 1700 hrs.
I woke up handcuffed on a cold concrete floor, Tykeesha standing over me.
"Damn, bitch..." I murmured..."'dat was some shiznit..."
"Can it, asshole," Tykeesha said. "You didn't really think they hire uneducated people with ghetto mentalities to work for the D.M.V., did you?"
I noticed she was wearing a tasteful pants suit now. "Well, I..."
"I fail more drivers than anyone in the department," she said, "though I rarely get to charge them with D.U.I. involving toothpaste."
I looked up helplessly, wondering whose puke I was laying in. "So I don't get to drive?"
"You'll be lucky if you don't go to jail," she said, her huge thighs blocking out the overhead lights.
"I, uh..." I slicked my hair back with some spare puke. "I don't suppose, after I'm arraigned and all..."
"You and me?" she asked, scowling. She picked me up then, effortlessly, and cradled me to her bosum. "Let's roll, playah," she whispered.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Arms and the Armed Man

Fort Braggart, East Carolina. Outside Myopic Mike's Precision Rifle Range and Gun Shop. 1300 hrs.
A mercenary's arsenal of firearms is like an Asian's car--sure, you can function without it, but how are you gonna kill people? I had spent the previous evening cataloging my personal weapons cache and wasn't happy with the results.
I have two water guns which I fill with urine--one with my own and the other from a donor. They're great for blinding your enemy but sometimes a bit more is required. I also have the shotgun I acquired in typical mercenary fashion--I took it off a dead man. I'm sure Grandpa understands. And I have seven knives, but that's two less than the experts at Soldier of Fortune suggest you carry for everyday protection.
And that's it. I've not been allowed to purchase any guns since that incident at Chuck E. Cheese seven years ago, and the lack of firepower has seriously hindered my ability to perform as a merc.
But now I had hope. I had just received a letter from my attorney letting me know I was authorized to go out in public without the genital bracelet, and I hoped my firearms ban had ended as well.
I parked my mom's car outside Myopic Mike's and headed in with a very large purchase in mind.

Myopic Mike's Precision Rifle Range and Gun Shop. 1305 hrs.
"Howdy, Mike!" I said, walking up to the counter. I was a regular visitor, stopping by often to oggle the guns behind the counter.
Mike squinted at me behind thick, almost-opaque glasses. "Aunt Stella?"
"No, it's me, Randy McFab."
"Oh." His face fell. "I guess you want to talk guns."
"No Mike, this time I want to buy guns!"
"Well..." He looked at his watch, holding it mere millimeters from his face. "I was gonna hit the rifle range for some shooting, Randy."
At that, a stream of men poured out from the door to the range.
"Just taking a break!" one of the men said. "You've got it all to yourself, Mike!"
"Why do you all always leave when I want to shoot?" Mike asked, addressing a display of hunting jackets on the sales floor.
"Don't worry about it," I said. "I really do have money this time."
"Not--"
"No, not Costa Rican postage stamps. This is real money." I fanned a wad of cash close enough to his eyes for him to see it. "My momma sued Mountain Dew on account of it making me Republican. I've got some spending money now."
"Well, alright then..." Mike gestured towards the gleaming steel displayed on the wall behind him. "What do you want? That Remington 700 you keep asking about? Larry Pitts down at the Circuit City swears he hit a gnat at 1000 yards with one the other day...'Course, the gnat was on a horse's abdomen..."
"Nah, Mike. I need concealed carry." I pointed at a .44 magnum revolver with an eight-inch barrel in the case between us. "Something small," I said. "A pea-shooter."
"Great!" He took the pistol out of the case and handed it to me. The grip felt like warm bone in my hand, and I could almost taste the gore this piece could create.
"I'll need hollow-points, of course," I said.
"Sure, won't be much use without it." He turned towards a computer terminal on the counter. "I just need to run a quick check...Liberal law, you know..."
"No problem," I beamed, my genitals riding free in my BDU trousers.
"Just need your driver's license."
"Yessir," I said, handing him my learner's permit.
He eyed it carefully. "You're...You're forty-two, aren't you?"
"Yes. I had a regular license, but then I ate some mushrooms a few years ago and forgot how to drive. Minor thing really, they're fixing it."
"Alright. Be just a couple minutes." He typed into the the terminal, and I walked around to check out the merchandise in the rest of the store.
They had some good stuff. For hunters like me they stocked both Uncle Jon's Old-Timey Deer Poison and Boar in Heat Sportsman's Cologne. For personal protection, they carried armor-penetrating ammo and other necessities like Israeli-issued gas masks. Damn, I'd have to come back with more money.
"Um...Randy?" Mike was calling from the counter.
"Yes? Do you need my holster size?"
"No, Randy, the...the background check came back, uh..."
Shit. "What, is there a waiting period?"
"Well, no, it..." He pulled a printout from the computer station, folding the twenty or so pages into a neat stack. "It says..." He put his nose right on the paper, reading carefully. "It says...'No fucking way.' Then it says that again. For twenty pages."
Damn damn damn! "It doesn't say why?"
"No, but..." He squinted at the printout. "There's a note from the head of the ATF...Just says 'You've got to be fucking kidding me.'"
So. That's how it was. Despite the Second Amendment, a patriot can't bear arms if said patriot has committed a few gun-related felonies. The liberals win again.
"Have you seen this, though?" Mike asked, and produced a large purple-and-yellow plastic rifle from behind the counter. "This is the Super Soaker 9000," he said. "You fill this baby with urine, and..."
"You had me at urine," I said, and handed him the cash.