Monday, July 03, 2006

The Third of July

In honor of the holiday most sacred to all the world, American Independence Day...
What follows are excerpts from the journal of my ancestor, Nathaniel "Matchlock" McFab, who lived in Philadelphia in 1776 and participated in the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Kensington's Tavern and Whore Baths, Philadelphia. The thrice of July, 1776.
"Serving wench!" I called, pounding my hollowed-out cat's skull on the table. "Another cat head of watered-down ale!"
I felt the Devil's fingers in my loins as she sauntered over, her plumpness stretching her filthy smock to the very limit of decency. I smiled at her as she filled my cat's head from her leathern flask, my tooth reflecting the candle light in the dim pub.
"I await a most important man, " I said.
"Yes. You have told me this many times this afternoon."
"Mercenary work is not just for Hessians, you know. Soon I will be out of the alms house and into a cave above the river." In truth, I had already picked an excellent spot, a hole dug into the bank above the Delaware where the best sewage collected underneath in a pool. "Fine foraging where I'll be, " I said. "I have seen many a piece of cloth pass."
"Those cloths are...Never ye mind," she said. "You will always be in the alms house, Matchlock. You have not had a decent home since your dear mother passed."
"Aye." I watched the wench walk away, silently cursing God himself for taking Mother from me. Had I known one could contract the Sailor's Disease from a chamber-pot, I would never have let Mother share mine. My sad reverie was interrupted when the door swung open. Everyone in the tavern, that is to say, me, gasped at the sight of him. He was the greatest man in the world, and looked it. Spindly legs, pot-belly, and the jowls that say "I eat too much." Common men like me, with our muscles, flat stomachs, and sun tans, would kill to appear like the pale, fat figure before me.
"Mr. Franklin," I said, rising. "May I genuflect before you?"
"No, man--sit, sit." He surveyed the tavern briefly, his spectacles perched high on his ample nose. "You have not been followed, have you?" he asked, sitting across from me.
"No sir. I am trained in the ways of stealth, and rode two mules and a negro on my way here."
"Good, good. I--" he waved the serving wench off. "I'll join in the whore baths later, " he told her. He then leaned on the table, gazing into my eyes as if he were peering at me from a one-hundred-dollar paper note. "Matchlock," he said, "you have been recommended as the best soldier for hire within an acre of this place. That is why I requested this meeting."
"I see you have taken note of my advertisement in your fine almanack," I said.
"Yes," Franklin said. "'Mercenary for hire. Will work for cod.' It caught my eye."
"If machines had been invented, I would describe myself as a killing machine, sir."
"Well they won't be, but nevertheless...We need you to kill. There is a man called Jefferson who is fomenting revolution." He saw my shock. "We all talk about it, yes, but this man is serious. Our plan is to assemble, enjoy much ale, and write insulting notes to the British. This man actually wants revolution, and he is gathering many followers. He must be stopped."
"Methinks...Methought...whatever," I said. "I thought you were all for revolution. I thought that was why so many great men had gathered here."
"You say you want a revolution?" Franklin asked. "Well, you know, we all want to change the world. But not by bloodshed. We think there could be a peaceful solution."
"I have had neither food nor woman without the musket," I said. "Peace is as foreign to me as bathing."
"Good. You will then have no difficulty. Here is his likeness, so you may know him when you see him." He passed me a two-dollar bank note. "Once he is dead, we will give you two barrels of cod and a filthy smock to wear."
"You had me at cod," I said, and pocketed the picture of my target.

Fifty-six draughts later.
I crouched in an alley-way, changing into my disguise. A mercenary reveals not himself, and I am a master of deception. I would appear in the guise of a British soldier, having stitched together a uniform from red-stained cotton I found outside a girl's reformatory. The clothing is not the man, though, so after dressing I began to walk like a woman and practiced using the ridiculous accent of the native Brits.
"Good eve," I said in my own voice. "Glibtechnifagenarkle barkle," I replied in British. I was ready.

Even later.
I waited outside the sporting palace where Jefferson and his men had gone to see an entertainment. Lincoln Financial Field, they called it, and it was popular among the lower types who celebrated a team of sportsmen called the Eagles. I am not one for sports, and knew only that many complained that it is exceedingly difficult to see a football by candlelight.
I caressed my gun, then caressed the musket in my hands. I had the best musket back-breaking labor could buy, a French-made weapon that was accurate to ten yards. I would snipe if at all possible.

Later still.
After a few final roars, the crowd began filing out, and I watched from the shadows as they looked around in vain to find where their mules were parked. Finally, I saw him.
He was tall, but not so tall as to be an affront to God. He was noble in bearing, in that he didn't seem to have a crippling disease like most of us. And his wig--well, let me just say that I hope sodomites are accepted enough one day so that one might comment on Jefferson's fine wig with a snap of the fingers and a "you go, girlfriend!"
He was surrounded by a pack of dandies, none of whom appeared to be armed. It was time.
I charged his group, musket at the ready, and stopped ten yards before him.
"Dibimagard, farkterd!" I screamed, saying "Die, bastard," in British. I pulled the trigger as my sight-bead fell on his face. Nothing happened.
I tried again, then realized...Matchlock.
"Er...Does anyone here have a light?" I asked. "I forgot--"
"Kill the Brit!" someone shouted, and they fell upon me, Jefferson himself delivering the first kick to the Pouch of Life.

Fourth July, 1776. The alms house.
I received the news in my sickbed, and by bed I of course mean pile of gravel.
"Revolution!" One-Legged Joe shouted. "The Crown's attempt on Jefferson sealed it!"
"Damned British, " someone added, "trying to kill Jefferson...We would have been happy to talk about it, you know."
I sank back in my gravel, not knowing what to say. Then I sat up, knowing what to say.
"Fuck the British," I said, and went back to sleep.

That was the last entry in Nathaniel McFab's diary...Apparently he woke up only long enough to choke to death on an onion. We remember him today as he would want us to, a man who by all rights should have lived in a cave. Your cave awaits, hero. Randy.