First Moloch, horrid king, besmear’d with blood
Of human sacrifice, and parents’ tears,
Though for the noise of Drums and Timbrels loud
Their children’s cries unheard, that pass’d through fire
To his grim idol
“So I went out to Fritz’s and bought these fillets. Fillet Mignons? Two inch thick motherfuckers, like this, and I bacon wrapped them and put them on the grill. Meanwhile I made a huge batch of mashed potatoes, I mean just a great heaping pile of them, mixed in some sweet potatoes with them, tons of butter. So I’ve got all of this ready, on a couple of plates, and I’m bringing them out of the kitchen, headed into the living-room and that’s the last thing I remember. Boom!, I go straight down, Dianne said later it looked like someone had cut my strings, I just crumpled in a heap on the floor. My face, this side of my face?, went into a pile of the mashed potatoes. Dianne said she spent 5 minutes scraping them off and then washing my face. Understand I’m out though all of this.”
I miss my shot on the eight.
“Dianne finally gets me awake, I don’t remember this, and I tell her I’ve got a headache and I’m going to bed. It’s four in the afternoon, Saturday, and I go to bed. I don’t get up until four in the morning…Monday.”
My second shot on the eight is a tad thin and moves the ball off the rail to sit just in front of the corner pocket.
“What did your doc say?”
“Can’t get in until late next week.”
“No; you went to the ER, right? What did they say?”
“ER? I slept 36 hours straight – whatever it was had passed, no sense going to the ER for something that happened a couple of days ago…”
I lean waaaaaaaaay over my stick and gently stroke the cue ball toward the eight. “What happened to the fillets?”
“Once Dianne realized I wasn’t getting up, she went into the kitchen – she had taken the plates, neither of which had broke or spilled, well, except for the face implant in one of the piles of potatoes – scraped off the smashed mashed – and ate her fillet. The other fillet she put in the ‘fridge. When I didn’t get up the next day she ate that one, too…hey!, pay attention; that’s the third time you missed the eight!”
He’s right; I suck at this.
Death has a distinct odor.
The scent is sickly sweet, subtly overwhelming. It is a tangible thing that once inhaled can never be exhaled. The smell will forever haunt you even in the most innocuous situations; buying your child an ice cream cone, watching a bowl game, always, always when a stranger with shifting eyes approaches. And the more time you spend in death’s company, the more you smell the stink on yourself.
In the radiation waiting area on Level A of The Peet Center there is only the slightest whiff of the aroma. The light green room is kept chilled, its beautiful dark hardwood floor emanates the only warmth, the display-window decorated Christmas tree hinting at some vague future.
Nurses beaming genuine smiles fetch the waiting patients. The physicist who places the radioactive seeds within her, this short short gentle man (she’s only five foot, and that’s with her blue-rinsed, firmly sprayed hair, looks down on his bald head) always says “Please tell me your name and age so we are sure you receive the right dosage” in his lilting southwest Asian accent. And he always counts down the number of times they have done this, the old woman and this slight immigrant; he does not look away, she says. He is always present.
She sits beside me, wrapped in a dingy hospital gown and further enfolded by a pristine white thin blanket, her gaze captivated by the subduded images on the TV.
“It’s just not right.”
I offer nothing in return.
“I mean it, now: it’s just not right. What could make someone do something that awful? No matter how much pain he was in, no matter how bad his childhood or whatever, how could anyone do that to children?”
Around the cold room other patients stare at the television, forgotten for the moment their own suddenly sooner than expected demise. The first day I delivered her up I was quickly accepted by the other patients. I was not eyed enviously like other healthy family members accompanying stricken relatives; these patients can, after all, still smell.
“Honey? Time to go.”
It’s her personal nurse, the one who sees her every day, twice a day, to guide her back. Five minutes, twice a day, the seeds rest within her. The surgery went well, they promise; they’re sure they got it all. But the need to sterilize the surrounding area is clear.
Understandable: back when we always used more napalm than strictly necessary.
Every patient now directing obscenities toward an old photo on the TV of the dead child killer is here for a minimum of six weeks to allow, no, welcome the most virulent poison into their veins; the colorful bandannas adorning their pates are no less campaign medals than any veteran’s.
“It’s just not right,” she mutters and into the miasma of back rooms she willingly shambles.
“Seriously, you didn’t go to the ER? It could be, probably is something serious.” A second game – my opponent broke, ran a couple of solids then hesitates, stumped.
“Sure. Or, you know, it could have happened while I was driving. On the highway somewhere or on my way to the office. That could have been a disaster.” He shakes his head and watches my opponent miss a cross-side shot. The he faces me and lets me see the truth; he was also once an involuntary southeast Asian tourist.
Ultimately there are but two things worth deep conversation: sex and death.
Sad then that Americans are incapable of honestly talking about the one and adopt a John Waynesque stoicism toward the other. We are animate blood bags, vulnerable to the slightest physical injury, barely able to out-think our technology, and instead of addressing our nature we divert ourselves with inanities, petition imaginary gods as though we were still primitives gibbering at the darkness beyond the fire.
“You catch that Chinese guy the other day? The one that went into a grade school and whacked all those kids with a knife? Killed 22 of them…”
“No. So far none of those kids have died.”
“None of them?”
“So far, not one.”
“Bullshit. How many times would you have traded your M-16 for a knife?
“Yeah, you’re right – it is. None of those first graders had AKs. Or knives, come to that.”
“Still, it’s always going to be something…shit, man; you were out. What is it with you and that eight ball? And what’s that – your third scotch?”
Fuck if I know. However many it is, it seems inadequate.
The stench of hypocrisy, fear and death permeates America these days.
Even as it wafts throughout our public spaces we turn our nose up, steadfastly refuse its existence. We’re especially good at that, denial, have it down to an art form. In the latest instance we’ll loudly worry how our very liberty is at stake should we ban assault weapons; how else would we defend ourselves from an overreaching, tyrannical government without them? All the while desperately pretending the rape of FISMA, The John Fucking Roberts Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, combined with Obama’s Drones Over America Program, haven’t already moved the country irrevocably beyond our already tenuous reach.
Beyond that is the daily backdrop of insanity which, of course, again we refute: America’s omnipresent industrial military complex.
This enity dedicates billions per annum solely in the service of creating machines to kill other human beings -death is big business and business is booming. We hire a slew of barely legal kids who (due to deliberately skewed economic practises) otherwise have no hope in hell of landing a decent job. We retain these puppies and subject them to rigorous training to reinforce the insanity they already witness daily via every possible media; hell, these young heroes and anti-heroes routinely slayed dozens on their home screens, if not the real streets. We then arm them with incredibly devastating weapons, place power with little or no responsibility in their immature hands, and hie them off to indiscriminately kill…well, anyone.
Anyone and everyone. As well as their own hearts.
The suggestion that arming more Americans would “solve” the problem is even more ludicrous; over 300 million registered guns exist in this country now. Exactly how many more would “solve” the problem?
The Sandy Hook office intercom was on during the massacre; every child in the building got to hear the murder of the school principal. It has been reported that kids hidden away in one classroom listened as their teacher lied to the murderer, said all her students were in the gym. Then they heard him shoot her and walk away from there.
“When I was growing up this would not have happened. It would not have been allowed. People believed in God and behaved accordingly. We need to return to God, put our faith in Him.”
It seemed bad form to note her actions belied her words: she herself chose scientific rigor over prayer.
Besides that invites the simple counter: all of nature is God’s work, she has put her faith in God.
More God – that’s the answer.
America suffers from an excess of religion. In fact the levels of religiosity in this country are more in line with South America than Europe. America already has more ‘God’ than any other part of the developed world. And more violence; don’t think the correlation of religiosity with every other type of behavior…including violence and murder…hasn’t been poured over.
But religion, like gun control, is yet another taboo subject.
We’re not allowed to discuss the obvious inadequcies and evils inherent in both, much less propose rational alterations to society’s relationship with them. Too may people would be upset; a concrete demonstration of the tyranny of the massess.
And we certainly don’t want to upset anyone.
There are several truths here.
One is that assault weapons allow individuals to murder large numbers of people; that’s irrefutably, demonstrably true.
A second truth is that America has no taste for this particular fight. No matter that 20 six and seven year-olds will be going into the cold cold ground this week – we just won’t deal with the issue of unfettered access to assault weapons. No group of politicians has the balls to label the NRA the death cult it so obviously is and push legislation that would take these weapons out of the hands of all but the military. Instead there will be speeches full of fiery rhetoric and little else. Our dwindling national attention span, if the recent past is any measure, will meander elsewhere, snagged by the next shiny event.
Policy change? Forget it; in two weeks we’ll be on to something else.
Another truth is that this will happen again. And again. And again. More innocent people, quite likely more children, all going about the business of living, will be slain for no more good reason than back in 2004 George W. Bush -there is not a notional hell fiery enough for his misdeeds- allowed the federal ban on assault weapons to expire as a sop to the NRA and his campaign backers.
An honest, moral individual, recognising their explicit culpability in the murder of 20 small children, might well have taken their own life before Friday was out. I imagine George Bush spent the day clearing brush. Just as he did after Aurora, Colorado. And all the others.
For that is the final truth. Our politicians don’t give a rat’s ass what happens to any of us. All they are interested in is scoring esoteric policy points, played as intellectual backgammon against equally implacable opponents, for stakes they’ll never have to pay. Your children, you and all the rest of us, are but sacrificial offerings, pawns of the capricious whims of these tools of the State and its corporate masters.
Fuck your whining. Shut up while Newtown buries its dead and be grateful it wasn’t you or yours. Have a scotch. But whatever you do don’t question the men behind the curtain, don’t look too deeply into their methods. Don’t ask why we can’t have nice things. For Pete’s sake, don’t question anything.
I mean…can’t you smell that?