Monthly Archives: February 2019

The Trouble with Computers

I am the first to admit I am computer illiterate. I can point and click. I can use it like a typewriter and save simple documents, but that’s just about it.
I got my first computer more than 20 years ago. I could only see half of the page at a time which made it very inconvenient when composing a story, letter or a play. My short term memory has always been a bit chancy so at the beginning I back spaced a lot to see how I had started the sentence. Then there was the printer. It worked on some heat process which I never understood. I had to punch three keys—I don’t remember which ones—to send command to print. I could never get my fingers to hit them in the right cadence, like playing the piano, which I could never do either.
My next computer was easier to use and the printer was cooperative. I had to buy several different programs which were very expensive to make it worthwhile, and each one had its own peculiar way of working.
Then came the internet. I was first aware of the internet through these commercials of a little girl in a woolen coat and a beret of a matching color. She was standing on a rock in the middle of a stream and then instantly was on another rock and then another. She was talking about being here, there and everywhere all at the same time. It didn’t make much sense. But that is what the internet is, after all, being here, there and everywhere all at the same time.
The first time I connected to the internet I thought I had done something dreadfully wrong and the computer was about to explode—that awful screeching noise of dial up. I could imagine someone instantly popping the power button off before the contraption burst. There were certain evenings, Mondays and Tuesdays, when I couldn’t get a connection. Everyone, it seemed, didn’t have anything better to do on those nights than go online. Downloading sites took forever.
Now I’m spoiled. Instant connection and downloading and it’s fast. Where I used to have to go to libraries, order books from catalogues and go on field trips to learn background for my stories I now have access to every university library, every museum and every national historic site in the world. Of course, I had to learn some sites weren’t what they were cracked up to be. For instance, Flash Mountain is not the same as Splash Mountain at DisneyWorld.
My only fear now about computers and the internet is that all our knowledge is on line. On the one hand it’s very convenient, at least for those who have computers. We must realize we do live in a world where some people still can’t afford computers. That’s a perception gap that must be closed.
The real problem, however, is that all our knowledge is on computers, computers that are run by electricity. If, for whatever cataclysmic reason, the world loses its electrical power, there goes our knowledge. It’s in a computer that’s now an inert box. We are in a new Dark Ages.
One day, when we are gone and our cities are covered in vines, someone will find these little boxes and maybe figure out how to start them again. They will find the discs with a set amount of gigabytes of information on them. Perhaps they will decide that we were predicting the end of the world because the boxes held only a certain number of gigabytes.

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Twenty-Five

Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws a society ball, where former lovers Andy and Bedelia meet. Andy and friends try to stop villain Malcolm Tent. The good guys finally get the goods on Tent. Tent accuses Andy of wearing red underwear.No big deal. Everybody’s wearing red underwear.
“If he isn’t going,” Tent retorted while pointing at Andy, “I’m not going!”

“Oh, yes you are!” Cecelia said as though demanding a recalcitrant child to come to the dinner table.

“Who’s going to make me?” His smirk was most arrogant. You and who else?”

“Oh Billy!” Cecelia swept over to her potential new lover.

“Yes, Lady Chatalot?” Billy’s eyes glowed with mischief.

Tent cast a wary eye toward his henchman and the licentious lady who was whispering in his ear. He looked at Millicent. “Lady Chatalot? What does that mean?”

“I don’t know. Maybe some secret code.”

“I think it’s dirty,” Eddie offered softly.

Billy then grabbed Tent’s arm and twisted it behind his back. “Come along, sir.”

“But Billy!” He sputtered frantically. “I thought you were on my side!”

“She kisses better than you do, sir,” he informed his former boss.

“But, Billy.” Tent was getting really desperate by this point. “You don’t know how I kiss!”

The very thought caused Billy to grimace. “Sorry, sir. I don’t care to find out.”

“Oh dear, Billy, but you may have to go to jail too.” Cecelia went to him and tenderly stroked his filthy cheek. “However, your good deed in bringing Tent to justice may weigh with the judge.”

“That’s all right, Lady Chatalot. It won’t be the first time I’ve been in the slammer.”

Cecelia blew a kiss to Billy as he manhandled Tent out the door. “I’ll be waiting, with canapés.” She followed them to the front door and graciously opened it for them.

Millicent grabbed Eddie by the elbow. “Come on, Eddie. The party’s almost over. Let me walk you home.”

. “No wait. I almost got it.” Eddie was hunched over in a most unseemly manner, still trying to unbutton his pants.

Millicent slapped his hands to make him stop as they walked out the door. “It doesn’t make any difference now.”

“No, really, I almost got it. I swear I got on red underwear. Just like you told me.”

By the time they made their way through the ballroom, Eddie finally unbuttoned his pants and dropped them, only to reveal forest green tights. Very Robin Hood.

A voice in the crowd called out, “Is that guy wearing green underwear? I’ve never seen anything like that before! This is the weirdest party I’ve ever been at! I like it! Let’s be sure to come again next year!”

Back in the library, Bedelia snuggled close to Andy as he pulled up his pants. “Can you ever forgive me?”

“Never!” A rakish grin spread across his face. “You will have to spend the rest of your life begging me.” He paused to kiss her. “And begging.” Another kiss. “And begging.” Yet another kiss.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is the end of the tale of Andy, Bedelia and the rest. If you liked it, please drop a dollar or two in my tip basket above.

Inoculations Against Fears

All of this debate about childhood inoculations recently brings back memories from about 55 years ago. If there was a shot available I got it. My eldest brother had died of who knows what six years before I was born, so my mother wasn’t taking any chances.
Back then we even got shots at school for polio. They lined us up in the cafeteria and stuck all of us with the same old dull needle, but it was all right because we got ice cream afterwards. Some years later Dr. Sabin came out with polio vaccine on a sugar cube. This time they just said anyone who wanted it could get it for free at the local community center. Yep, I took that one too.
Nobody got more disturbed about small children catching a disease that could kill them than me. I don’t like to watch the 1940s movie Little Women because Margaret O’Brian dies after visiting a sick friend. This latest round of debate has me totally confused. One group will swear that children who got measles inoculations ended up dying or developing something terrible like autism. The other side swears that inoculated children caught the measles from uninoculated kids. That’s a lot of swearing going around, and it makes me nervous because I can’t decide which side is right. Maybe they’re both wrong or both right.
I have a sneaking suspicion that all the preservatives and chemicals our children ingest everyday might have an adverse reaction to all those serums and antibiotics doctors prescribe. My paranoid side whispers to me that corporations which buy elections for our representatives control what government eventually will decide which side is right. There’s a lot of money riding on that decision. Don’t pay any attention to me. I’m just a guy who likes to go out on the street and tell stories to anybody who stops to listen.
I do have to chuckle a bit that we Americans were all in a dither every month or so about a disease that is killing everyone. Well, it usually doesn’t, and we have to look for a new disease to worry about. Be patient. By this time next month we’ll be biting our fingernails over another disease which we absolutely have no idea how to control.
Perhaps that is the real issue here. We do have the ability to address issues like poisoning our water supply, proper labelling for our factory processed food, and proper preventive health care for all our children, no matter what their parents have done to provide for them. Let’s stop the war between religion and science. It doesn’t get us anywhere.
Maybe we could follow the example of Republican President Dwight David Eisenhower who started free lunches for our poorest children. He discovered that many of the young men enlisting to fight in World War II were malnourished. He instigated the interstate highway system to provide easy and fast routes for the transfer of the properly nourished soldiers. Incidental to his initial reason for better highways was the boon to the transportation of goods around the country. By the way, Eisenhower oversaw the desegregation of schools and was the reason all of us kids got stuck by those dull needles.
Perhaps it’s too scary to discuss projects for the greater good of all citizens which eventually enhance the quality of the United States as a whole. It’s easier to worry about the disease of the month.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Eighty-Eight

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Ashamed and distraught, Adam gets drunk and kills the butler who stops him from molesting the cook. Six months later Richmond falls to the Union. The captives in the basement learn the war is over.
“Cordie will fix me a good supper once I get home tonight.”
“It’ll be end of the week before you can leave,” Stanton said.
“That’s fine.” Lincoln put his arm around his wife. “We’ll arise Easter Sunday.”
His mind a blank, Adam unlocked the door. Not knowing where his feet would take him, he did not care; this was the first happy day for many months and he was unable to deal with it. Out the door and in the hall, Adam looked both ways. When he focused on the kitchen, he thought of Phebe. Even though he knew she would never forgive him, Adam felt an obligation to let her and Cleotis know the good news. He found Phebe sitting and rubbing her feet while the butler swept the floor.
“The war’s over.”
Phebe dropped her feet and slipped on her shoes.
“Thank you, Private,” Cleotis replied in deep, solemn tones. “The struggle for freedom is at last over. Hallelujah.”
“We can go home,” Adam mumbled.
“You may be going home, but, the Good Lord willing, we are home. Free and where we should be.”
“Yes, sir.” Looking at Phebe, he saw her reach for Cleotis’s hand and smile. Adam left the kitchen, looked down at his clothes, and rubbed his chin. He needed to clean up, he decided, before he went to Jessie to beg for her forgiveness.
In his room, Adam removed his blue tunic, stained with bean soup and mustard. Looking in the mirror, he brushed his fingers through his unruly red hair. They would have beautiful red-haired children, and he would be a good father. Adam brushed lathered soap onto his stubbly face. Perhaps he could get a job at one of the pottery factories in Steubenville. He did not want to be in the army anymore. Next he searched his room for a spare tunic, finding it under the cot, stained with vomit. Deciding the first tunic was better, Adam put it back on and took a wet hand cloth to wipe away the worst of the stains. When that failed, he told himself it did not look all that bad.
Making his way through the crowded streets, Adam crossed the iron bridge and ran to the Armory Square Hospital. Inside the ward, he looked furtively around, hoping to find Jessie, but could not see her. He did notice the odd-looking man who had approached them on the street the night of the Gettysburg celebration. Adam walked over to the odd man who looked up from writing a letter for a soldier whose hands were covered with bandages.
“Where’s Jessie?”
“She’s in a back room with Miss Zook,” the man replied. “The dear old lady doesn’t felt well. I’m afraid the war has not been kind to her.”
“The war’s over.”
“I was expecting it.” The odd man looked down at the wounded soldier. “I have to finish this letter. He wants his mother to know he’s coming home.”
Adam walked down the long aisle, his stomach turning from the mixture of smells—liniment, incontinence, alcohol. Opening the door at the end of the hall, he saw Jessie sitting on the edge of Cordie’s cot, wiping the old lady’s moist cheeks. Jessie turned to look at him, her eyes blank.
“The war’s over,” he said.
Jessie turned her attention to Cordie, who was delirious.
“I’ve got to get it done,” she mumbled. “Gabby needs a quilt. I can’t get it done just lying here. I got—I got…”
“Of course, me dear, get your strength back,” Jessie said. “Be quiet, me love. Try to sleep now.”
“Did you hear me?” Adam fidgeted.
“Gabby’s got to get a quilt,” Cordie insisted feverishly.
“Darlin’, I’ll finish the quilt meself.”
“So tired.” Cordie shook her head. “Can’t finish the Gabby quilt.” She looked up at Jessie and grabbed her arm. “Take care of Gabby. He used to be so smart, but he needs somebody to take care of him.” Her eyes searched Jessie’s face. “Take care of him.”
“Of course, me darlin’. Try to sleep.”
“Gabby’s leaving the White House soon,” Adam told her. “He can help you get well.”
“Gabby’s coming home?” Cordie’s eyes widened. “Good. Good.” She focused on Adam. “Bring him here as soon as you can.”
“I will.”
“Gabby’s coming home. That’s good. I feel better now. Gabby’s coming home.” Cordie coughed, gasped, and stopped breathing. Her eyes gazed blankly over Jessie’s shoulder.
“God bless ye, me darlin’.” Jessie closed Cordie’s eyes.
“You were good to her.” Adam put his hand on her shoulder. “We can take care of Gabby. He’ll like it in Steubenville. It’s a friendly little town.”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you all right?” Adam realized how warm her body felt beneath his hand, and that her face was moist with perspiration. “You seem awfully hot.”
“I’m fine.” She coughed.
“How long have you been sick?”
“I don’t know.”
“Have you seen the doctor?”
“The doctors are for the soldiers.”
“But you’re important too,” Adam insisted.
“I can take care of meself.”
“But I want to take care of you.” He could only whisper.
“Ye can’t take care of yourself.”
“You’re right.” Adam’s mind raced to form the precise words to win her back. “I’ve behaved terribly, but all that’s behind me. I’ve grown up.”
“I have to make funeral arrangements.” Jessie stood.
“What about Gabby?”
“I’ll think of something.”
“What about me?”
“You’re grown up. Take care of yourself.”
Adam followed her out the door, watching her cough as she disappeared into the crowded ward. The odd-looking man walked up.
“Miss Zook is dead, isn’t she?”
“You love Miss Home, don’t you?”
“She hates me.”
“Love and hate are related; she could not be so deeply hurt if she did not love as deeply.”
“No, she hates me.”
“She loves you. Give her time.”
“We don’t have time.”

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Sixty-One

Previously: Mercenary Leon fails on a mission because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Socialite Wallis Spencer, also a spy, has an affair with German Joachim Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest. David becomes king. Wallis divorces, David abdicates and they marry. They fail to kill Hitler.
The train ride, spent in silence from Germany to Paris, became a tense ordeal for David and Wallis. They had failed in missions before but never one of such consequence. The death of Adolf Hitler would have saved the whole world.
“Why couldn’t you have waited another five minutes?” Wallis asked, more in exasperation than anger.
“We didn’t have five minutes.” His reply was passionless. His schwermut had full control of his soul. “The reception line took longer than we thought. Everyone thought you were charming.”
“Is this fiasco my fault?”
David turned to smile. “Of course not. You can’t help it if you are charming.”
She puffed on her cigarette. “You’re pretty damn charming yourself, buster.” Wallis paused. “Someday we’ll have to go to the rodeo.”
“Rodeo? What do you mean by that?” He crinkled his brow.
“I thought you’d been to Calgary.”
David laughed and shrugged his shoulders. “Anyway, it was imperative for us to be on that train. If we were still in the chalet when Hitler began to show symptoms, we would have been in dire circumstances.”
“What’s next?” Wallis looked out the window and noticed a change in scenery. They were safe in France.
Once they were entrenched in their third-story suite in Paris’s Hotel Meurice, they stayed in seclusion as they awaited new orders from MI6. As the days stretched into weeks without word, they were happy to have a peaceful time to relax. They were both in their forties now and the marriage melodrama, blowing up a train and attempting to assassinate Adolf Hitler wore them out. David and Wallis received absolutely no invitations to soirees, and they were glad. The rumors indicated that the French elite were afraid to socialize with the Duke and Duchess out of fear of offending the British King. They preferred to sleep in, go to the hotel spa for sessions with the masseuse and have their meals in their suite. One or two invitations to lesser events came their way, but the couple ignored them. Their major ritual each day was reading the Parisian edition of the London Times. In fact, they began a competition to see who could finish the crossword puzzle first. They were evenly match.
In early November they both noticed a story on the social page about a charity sale on behalf of the British Episcopal Church of Christ in Neuilly. Each copy of their papers had the event circled in red. Before they could comment on it, there was a knock at the door. A bellboy handed David an envelope, bowed, waited for his tip, which Wallis provided, and walked away. The Duke opened the envelope and handed the contents to Wallis.
“We’ve been invited to a charity sale.” Her voice was flat. “How boring.”
“The red circles in our newspapers tell me otherwise.”
On the night of the charity event, David chose a conventional business suit—appropriate for a church gathering—and then sat in the drawing room waiting for Wallis to appear and holding his breath; after all she was an American and tended to overdress for certain occasions. On this evening, however she did not disappoint. Wallis wore a modest grey gown fitted tightly to her slender figure. And the neckline was properly high considering they were to attend an event in a church.
When they arrived at the reception hall, the Duke and Duchess heard polite reserved applause. A gentleman, evidently from the board of church elders, greeted them.
“The bishop wishes to have a word with the two of you before the sale officially begins,” he said. “Follow me.”
As they made their way through the crowd, Wallis waved and smiled, though some of the older ladies chose to turn a cheek. The gentleman opened the door to a dimly lit wood-paneled office and closed it with efficiency as the couple stepped in. A man dressed in cleric robes with his back to them sat at a desk.
“The church absolves you of your sins.”
David thought the voice sounded familiar.
When he turned in his chair, they saw a smiling General Trotter.
“I thought you might feel bad about not killing Hitler.”
“We don’t need absolution from you or any church.” Wallis was testy.
“It’s just as well.” Trotter stood and crossed around the desk. “A half dozen or more lieutenants, just as crazy but quite a bit more lucid, would have stepped in and kept the world moving toward war. My real purpose tonight is to inform of your new missions.”
“May we have a seat?” David asked. “This might take a while.”
“Please do. But this won’t take long. It’s more of a general outline for the next two years. We need more specific data. Troop movements. Artillery placement. Intent of the French people. We know the government is fragile but we need the pulse of the common citizen. We need to find you two houses, one near Paris to make the duke available to the front and one on the Riviera so Wallis can get a sense of the mood of the people. Also, the beach house would be more secluded for our communication.”
“The important question is,” Wallis said with a flair, “will I be allowed to decorate them anyway I wish?”
“Of course,” Trotter replied. “If you became frugal now, the world would know something was odd.” He looked at David. “I hope you have kept your flying skills honed. We need your observations of the Belgian countryside.”
“You can count on me.” David smiled. “At first I thought this was going to be boring.”
Trotter handed Wallis a slip of paper. “Read this to open the sale. Then bustle round, complimenting everything and buying a few knick knacks. Win them over.”
She shrugged. “It’s what I do best.”

We Need to Talk

“Hey, brain, what do you think of that little cutie walking down the street?”
“I don’t think anything about her at all, heart. I’m happily married. And so are you. Or have you forgotten?”
“Of course, I forget all the time. I’m the heart. I can’t remember nothing. You’re the brain, Mr. Smartypants. You don’t forget nothing.”
“Don’t forget anything. Your grammar really makes my blood boil.”
“And it ain’t your blood, genius. It’s my blood, because I’m the one who pumps it.”
“Could you two keep it down up there? I’m trying to digest some food here, and that hamburger ain’t gonna metabolize itself, you know.”
“You ate another hamburger? Stomach, don’t you remember what our doctor said?”
“You’re the brain. You’re supposed to remember those things for all us.”
“Yeah, meathead. All this is your fault.”
“That’s right, heart.”
“That’s right, heart.”
“Thank you, stomach.”
“I’ve been meaning to have a talk with you guys. Liver, lungs, you better listen up too.”
“I know I’ve caused us to cough too much lately. So get off my back.”
“And I—I wanna know who’s responsible for all that cheap gin? You’re wearing out this old liver.”
“That’s just it, my fellow organs. We’re all wearing out. I don’t know if you realize it, but we’re 71 years old. Now, that’s not scary old, but it’s getting on up there. We need to take care of ourselves better. I’m beginning to forget things, and I’m just too tired to keep reminding everyone to do his job.”
“You’re going to replace me with a younger heart, aren’t you? That’s what this is all about. You’re going to rip me out of my home and give it to some stronger, sexier heart. After all these years of faithful service, and this is what I get.”
“There you go, pumping yourself into another fit. That’s why I got ulcers. You and your fits.”
“Nobody loves me anymore. That’s all that a heart lives for is love, and you all hate me.”
“Whattaya mean? You’re the center of our lives! Whoever thinks of a liver? Nobody. I’m supposed to shut up and keep on working. I don’t even know what I do, but I keep on doing it so we can all live.”
“Brain, could we move this conversation elsewhere? That guy next to us is smoking a cigar, and I’m about to break out in another coughing attack. I know that shakes everybody up.”
“Hey, this walking around feels kinda good.”
“Watch out. I just processed some excess gas, and it’s makin’ its way through the large intestine.”
“Thank you, stomach. That’s very considerate of you. You know what I think?”
“There he goes again. The brain is gonna tell us what to think.”
“Can it, heart. I’ve got a cough coming on, and it’ll make you feel even worse. We don’t need that.”
“All I wanted to say was, buddies, we’ve been working together for a long time, and I just want you to know it’s been an honor, a real honor.”
“Now that’s something the heart should say. Nobody ever lets me say the good stuff.”
“Shut up, heart. You’re makin’ my ulcers act up.”

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Twenty-Four

Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws a society ball, where former lovers Andy and Bedelia meet. Andy and friends try to stop villain Malcolm Tent. The good guys finally get the goods on Tent. Tent accuses Andy of wearing red underwear.
If you’re not wearing something red you might as well be stone cold dead!
‘Cause red is taking center stage! It’s right for any age! Bright red is all the rage!

Cecelia got right into the chief inspector’s face to wag a finger.

You’re such a dud and not a stud because you always dress in black.
And you should know some other things, you clueless old sad sack.
Don’t pink! It stinks!

Millicent stepped forward to snap her fingers.

Don’t blue! It’s flu!

In the spirit of the emotional riot occurring in the library, Bedelia broke out of her prim and proper mold.

Yellow? Hell no!

Andy caught on to the general mood and made his own offering.

Don’t green! Obscene!

As usual Eddie tried his best but stumbled on the rhyme.

Don’t purple! It’s burple!

Cecelia added another for good effect.

Don’t orange! It’s—
Orange, orange, no rhyme for orange.

Eddie patted her on the shoulder.

Oh, that don’t matter. I rhymed purple!

She nodded, ignoring Eddie’s advice.

Actually, orange is a shade of red so I suppose orange is acceptable.
So if you don’t wear something red, you might as well be stone cold dead!
We hear the Queen might make the scene and wear the current fashion rage!
‘Cause red is taking center stage. It’s right for any age! Bright red is all the rage!
We said not beige, and, damn not white, it’s such a fright, it’s red that’s all the rage!

“What do you mean?” Tent narrowed his eyes in suspicion.

“I got on red underwear too!” Eddie tried to unbutton his trousers but without success. At the palace he had his personal valet to perform such intricate duties. He began to stumble around the library in an attempt unbutton them.

“And I have red underwear!” Millicent lifted her dress to reveal bright red lacy leggings.

“And I!” Lifting her gown, Cecelia revealed tights of more a dark crimson nature.

Bedelia put a finger to her cheek and smiled naughtily. “Come to think of it, I’m wearing red underwear too.”

In anticipation of making the lingerie preference almost unanimous, the heroes turned to look at Billy.

“Don’t look at me.” He shrugged and winked at Cecelia. “I don’t wear no underwear at all.”

“Be still my heart!” Lady Snob-Johnson swooned.

Eddie ran to swing open the ballroom door. He hollered at all the other guests who were in the middle of a proper waltz by Strauss.

“And you folks out there! How many of y’all have on red underwear?” He pointed at a lady closest to him. “You there, ma’am. I bet you got on red underwear!”

“Eddie!” One must wonder why anything Eddie did still shocked Millicent.

“Hitch up yo’r dress and let us see red!”

Millicent resorted to corporal punishment by slapping his face. “Eddie! Stop it!”

“Oh. Sorry.” That was the first time that Millicent was ever physically abusive. He kind of liked it. “You can keep yo’r dress down, ma’am.” He then decided to try again to unbutton his own pants and show his red underwear.

“As you said, inspector,” Millicent said smugly, “you have a date at headquarters.”

Chattering Birds

The other day I was sitting outside when a great assemblage of birds flew overhead. I don’t know the exact number, but it did take a considerable amount of time for them to clear the sky. All I know is that they were not geese, those elegant geese who form a perfection V as they travel. These birds I watched were more of a hodge-podge. I would think they each were on their own but they were all going in the same direction and same speed. I assumed one of them was the leader, but he wasn’t a very good one. Not a single attempt at a straight line among them, and they squawked at the same time. And what a conversation they must have had. Since there was no way I could figure out who was talking when, I have foregone any attempt at attribution.
“Slow down!”
“You go faster.”
“I have two babies here!”
“If you flew faster they’d keep up.”
“Good grief, she thinks she’s the only mother up here.”
“Slow down!”
‘Speed up!”
“Don’t look now, but your babies just passed you.”
“Boys! Slow down for your mother!”
“Okay, who farted in my face?”
“We just flew through an infestation of gasoline belchers and you’re worried about my gas?”
“I told you not to eat the seeds from those wilted flowers last night, but did you listen to me? No. And
now I have to put up with your gas.”
“At least it’s not the kind that kills.”
“Are we there yet?”
“How would I know? I don’t know where we’re going. I just hope it’s not as hot as it is here. I’m beginning to molt out of season.”
“Will you please get your beak out of my tail?”
“Fly faster. Your tail smells like—“
“Are you sure we’re going in the right direction?”
“I don’t know. Crazy George is in charge for this leg.”
“Good grief! We’re going to get lost!”
“Hey! George can’t help it. He’s dyslexic.”
“When’s lunch? I’m hungry.”
“We’re flying straight through. You should have eaten more of those flower seeds last night.”
“And have the farts the rest of the way back? No way!
“Does everyone have to talk at the same time? I’m getting a headache.”
“You want a headache? I’ll whack you upside the head with my wing. Then you’ll have a headache.”
“I don’t even know what half of you guys are saying.”
“It’s better that way. If we knew what some of them were saying, we’d fly off in a snit and then we’d be lost.”
“If we were lost then we might as well stop for lunch. I’m still starving.”
“Boys! If you don’t slow down for your mother right now—“
“What are you going to do, Ma?”
“Yeah, Ma, you have to catch up with us first.”
“Was that Crazy George who just flew past us going the other way?
“Who’s turn is it to lead now?”
“I don’t know maybe George knows something we don’t. Maybe he’s not as crazy as we think.”
“I’m getting scared.”
“Don’t let the guy with the farts be the leader!”
“Never mind. Here’s George coming back. He’s pushing along the mother with the two fast boys.”
“See? I told you George wasn’t crazy.”
“Are we there yet?”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Eighty-Seven

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Ashamed and distraught, Adam gets drunk and kills the butler who stops him from molesting the cook. Six months later Richmond falls to the Union. Lincoln impersonator Duff learns that he is officially dead.
Stanton unlocked the billiards room door, rousing Gabby from a restless afternoon nap. Gabby listened carefully to Stanton as he spoke to the Lincolns.
“The president has returned from Richmond.”
“With Tad safe and sound,” Mrs. Lincoln said.
“You have to learn the details of the trip,” Stanton said, ignoring her. “When you return upstairs, you’ll have to answer questions from the press.”
“Our places upstairs?” She sounded surprised. “This will be over soon?”
“General Grant is pursuing General Lee through the heart of Virginia.”
“I’ll be back with my precious Taddie.”
And I’ll be back with my precious Cordie. Gabby’s heart raced. What will I do first once I’m free to go to her?
“Calm down, Molly,” Lincoln said. “Listen to Mr. Stanton.”
“After Richmond fell,” Stanton began, “the navy removed Confederate torpedoes in the James River. You were aboard the U.S.S. Malvern until it could no longer pass the line of enemy obstructions, then you transferred to a barge pulled by the tugboat Glance. You were recognized by a group of colored workmen who shouted, ‘Bless the Lord, this is the great Messiah! Glory, hallelujah!’ From there you, Mr. Lincoln, and Tad went to the Confederate White House where you sat in Jefferson Davis’s chair.” He paused to cough.
“You don’t look well, Mr. Stanton,” Lincoln said.
Good. Gabby clinched his jaw. I hope he dies.
“You spent time reviewing troops, and left Richmond yesterday evening, and arrived at the capital this afternoon. You’ll speak to the public tomorrow and meet with the Cabinet on Wednesday.
“About reconstruction of the South?” Lincoln asked.
“I’m sure the topic will come up. I’ve encouraged him to pursue your agenda. He’s been so persistent he’s alienated several sympathetic Cabinet members.”
“When I return, I can soothe any hurt feelings,” Lincoln said.
Gabby noticed a pause.
“Mr. Stanton,” Lincoln continued, “exactly what is your position?”
“On what?”
Stanton did not want reconstruction. Gabby glared at the war secretary. He wanted to keep the nation divided to make it easier for him to become king. Long ago, Gabby decided Stanton did not want to end the war, but wanted to be all-powerful.
“The rebels must be punished,” Stanton declared.
“I believe they already have been,” Lincoln replied.
“They certainly have,” Mrs. Lincoln agreed.
Gabby heard the door open. It must be the private with supper.
“When you return to office, you may pursue any reconstruction policy you wish, but I doubt you’ll succeed.”
“Excuse me,” Adam muttered.
Slowly rounding the corner, Gabby watched him place the tray on the billiards table.
“Here’s a wire from the War Department.” Adam handed Stanton the envelope and turned away. As he was about to pass Gabby, Adam lowered his eyes. Gabby noticed Lincoln studied Stanton as he opened the wire and read it. Lincoln reached out to squeeze his wife’s hand. Stanton cleared his throat, and Gabby watched Lincoln lean forward.
“This is the news we’ve been waiting for. General Lee surrendered at the Appomattox courthouse in Virginia. The war is over.”
The war is over. Gabby’s mind raced with a thousand thoughts. I don’t know what to do. I wonder if the President would mind if I hollered for joy. No. I want to see Cordie. That’s all that mattered. I’m going to see Cordie!

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Sixty

Previously: Mercenary Leon fails on a mission because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Socialite Wallis Spencer, also a spy, has an affair with German Joachim Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest. David becomes king. Wallis divorces, David abdicates and they marry. On their honeymoon they derail a train. Now they’re on their way to kill Hitler.
Wallis stuck her cigarette in her mouth to keep from laughing at the two men who obviously had been crawling around under a giant miniature train display so they could pop their heads up through a hole in the middle of it. Nothing seemed as ludicrous as crawling on the floor for a former king of England and the absolute leader of the Third Reich right before a magnificent tea party in the German Alps.
David extended a hand to Hitler to help him stand. The Fuhrer ignored it. Wallis grabbed her husband’s elbow and directed him out of the room.
“Am I mistaken or was there murder in your eyes?” she whispered.
“If you had been one second later, I would have stomped his head in.”
“Now, now, you know that would have been much too messy.” She jerked him toward the reception hall where all of the finest people gathered to participate in an authentically replicated high English tea. Wallis pushed him toward a bosomy blonde looking merrily quaint in her dirndl. She was in that marvelous time of life when no one could tell if she were twenty-five or thirty-five nor really cared.
“I must introduce you to our hostess, fraulein Eva Braun.” Wallis leaned into his ear. “She’s Hitler’s version of Freda Ward.”
“Does she speak English?”
“God, how would I know? Just try not to stare at her bosom too much.”
As David walked over to Eva, Wallis puffed on her cigarette and tried not to stare at Eva too much herself. Some time had passed since she felt an urge from her other physiology. She enjoyed the dresses and makeup too much. And nothing matched the exhilaration of bringing a man to ecstasy through the infliction of delicious pain. Every now and again, a woman—usually a blonde—would remind her of the condition she was born with. Most of the time she ignored it. Such a revelation would shock Aunt Bessie, and she was such a naïve dear. And of course, once the word got out she would not be invited to those divine parties. And sometimes she felt like she wanted to punish the sweet little blondes for reminding Wallis of what she was—not what she chose to be nor what society allowed her to be. The last time she felt such an attraction was for KiKi Preston, the girl with the silver syringe. Wallis found KiKi alluring yet such a bane to the existence of the Royal Family, which she had pledged to defend and protect. Eva, on the other hand, looked like a lost child wandering down a posy-strewn path to hell. Wallis was relieved she only had to kill Hitler and not his mistress.
Ach, duchess, you left before I had a chance to show you, as you so quaintly called them, my choo choos.”
Wallis made a quarter turn, then looked over her shoulder through the black fur of her fox wrap to flutter her eyes at the Fuhrer.
Hitler stopped, his mouth dropped and the words that managed to escape his lips made no sense at all.
Half-covering her face with her fur piece was a cheap trick but it worked every time. Wallis walked slowly to the Fuhrer and extended her hand to be kissed—the same hand, by the way, which wore the opal ring which contained the poison.
“I’m sorry, Herr Hitler, you must repeat your last question. My German, unfortunately, is very weak.”
“I was going to say you are one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life. The newsreels do you no justice. It is a shame we are both married. You to the former king of England—
“But I thought you were single.”
“—and I am married to my beloved Germany.” He bent to kiss her hand again.
“No no.” She withdrew her hand. “No time for seconds. You must introduce me to all these fascinating people.”
Hitler stuck by her side as they made their way around the room for introductions. She remembered none of their names. Wallis was grateful none of them wished for piss on earth. German women, in particular, had trouble pronouncing the English word peace which turned into “piss”. Hitler, however, kept running his fingers up and down her back. It repulsed her, but she knew she must continue to lead him into her trap. Occasionally, she looked around at him, fluttering her eyes through the black fox fur.
“After the reception is over,” he whispered, “when these people have left and before your limousine arrives to take you back to the train station, you must see my choo choo set, up close and personal.”
“Shall I bring the drinks or shall you?”
Hitler gulped. “I will. What do you want?”
“A Cuba libre.”
“Of course, I will free Cuba too, but it will take time.”
“You don’t know what a Cuba libre is, do you?”
“No.” His dark penetrating eyes searched her face. “This is the first time I’ve told the truth to anybody. What is this strange hold you have over me?”
“Meet me in the choo choo room, and I will show you.” She winked.
For the next hour Adolf Hitler could not remember anyone’s name or title. He kept his hands to himself, now that he had been promised more than he could have hoped for. Finally, a short woman wearing too many pearls promised Wallis piss on earth. Hitler was still in his delirium and was unable to correct her pronunciation. Eventually the crowd began to drift away leaving only a core of diehard sycophants—field Marshall Hermann Goering who was in deep conversation with David, obviously about the train display; Joachim Von Ribbentrop who could not keep his eyes off Wallis; and Eva Braun who still wandered around like a lost waif.
“You must excuse me, Herr Hitler. I must freshen up a bit, if you don’t mind.” Wallis peeked through her fox stole again.
“Of course.” Hitler cleared his throat. I’ll be waiting for you in the—well, you know where.”
“And I’ll bring the drinks.” Wallis went directly to the cloak room where she had left her overcoat. She recovered from an inside pocket the drab gray uniform she had absconded from dress factory days earlier. She slipped it on over her fitted suit with the fox collar. After taking a moment to cover the fur with the uniform collar, she left and went to the bar. Along the way she commandeered a white servant’s cap. Poor girl was so intimidated by working in Hitler’s private residence, she said nothing when a strange woman snatched the cap from her head. Wallis properly adjusted the headwear before going to the bar where she ordered one Cuba libre.
The bartender presented it to her on a small silver tray. She then assumed the subservient posture of a servant as she passed through the reception hall. Wallis didn’t think even David noticed her. Right before she went into the train display room, she quickly opened her opal ring, emptied its contents into the drink and then turned it around on her finger so it appeared to be a plain band. Hitler was already positioned in the center opening.
“How dare you!” he barked. “How many times have you people been told to knock before entering?”
Wallis said nothing but tossed off her cap, unbuttoned the gray uniform and shimmied until it began to fall from her thin shoulders. She deftly switched the tray from one hand to another to allow the dress to land on the floor.
“I thought you were bringing two drinks,” Hitler commented in a dull school-boy voice.
“I drank mine at the bar. A double.”
“You don’t mind joining me in control central, do you? You have to crawl.”
“I won’t spill a drop of your drink. I’m quite agile, you know.”
Hitler let out a slight moan.
Wallis paused only briefly as she crawled under the table. She noticed the Fuhrer had already removed his pressed black slacks. Remembering her pledge to MI6, she trudged onward. Once she entered the central opening, Wallis rose like a navy-blue hyacinth. She heard Hitler breathe in deeply.
“You are one of the most fascinating women in the world, or am I repeating myself?”
“No. Earlier you said I was the most beautiful woman in the world. To be beautiful and fascinating blend together well, I think.” Smiling, Wallis added, “David and I must be back in town for the 6 p.m. train, so let’s get this choo choo out of the station.”
“You don’t have to worry about me.” He stepped closer. “I am developing a strategy I will call the blitzkrieg. The world will be astounded.”
“Well, before you astound me, please drink your Cuba libre. It may astound you.” Wallis lifted the tray.
The door swung open with a bang, and a wide-eyed Ribbentrop stood there like a frightened boy. “The duke is looking for the duchess, and is quite upset. They must leave now to make their 6 o’clock train.”
Wallis dropped the tray and glass to the floor before Hitler could drink it. The bastard couldn’t die now. The Germans would know for certain that she did it.
Wallis dropped to her knees. “I’m on my way.” She looked Hitler’s way. “The Fuhrer has a few things to put in order before he can join us.”
The Windsors were almost in the limousine when Hitler ran down the steps, smoothing out his trousers, reached for Wallis to pull her close for a kiss.
“You would have made a remarkable queen.”