Monday, June 13, 2011

6/13/11 - Trench Guns and Roses

Hello America, my name is SPYGOD. And, in case you haven't figured it out yet, I am 101% queer as !@#$

Any of you got a problem with that? No? Good. I can shoot people through an internet connection. It is scientifically possible.

So. What do you want to know? People always want to ask me something when I throw that out there. It's like a nervous tic or something that we can't go from "Hi, I'm SPYGOD, and I'm a transvestite" to "Oh, I work on Deep Ten. Let me tell you about the gaseous manatee-eating alien we had to deal with, today."

(DAMOCLES. Gotta love em.)

People used to ask me "when did you decide?" as if there was a switch I turned on in my head, one day, out of sheer boredom with heterosexuality. So I always asked "When did you?" which usually shut them the !@#$ up.

And if it didn't, one of my many guns usually did.

People these days are somewhat smarter. They don't want to know how I got this way, anymore. Now they want to ask me "when did you know?"

The problem is that, in true intelligence work style, I didn't know that I was supposed to know or not know something for the longest time. I simply was.

That and, in the time and place I grew up in, there weren't a hell of a lot of answers to the questions I didn't know I should be asking. This was the Great Depression, after all, and money wasn't the only thing you kept hidden in the closet.

But if you want an insight, I will happily provide you with the story of the day that, when I looked back, later on, should have informed me that something was a tad bit askew.

Not everyone lost their jobs when the market crashed. Some people continued to do very well because they were either smart with their money, or had something that a lot of people who still had a lot of money still needed. And Mr. Rossiter and his business partner, Bradley, were lucky.

Mr. Rossiter was the florist in my neighborhood. He was an upstanding, older gentleman with an excellent eye for color and design. He had people from Wall Street making the trip all the way down to our !@#$ neighborhood in order to get their daily flower fix when times were good, and when things went tits-up they continued to come on down, just not as often.

The two of them had worked and lived together since the late teens, not long after Bradley got back from Europe to hear the grownups tell it. They were supposedly business partners, but everyone kind of knew what was really going on. Us kids didn't get told directly, of course, but some words have an inherent power to them even if you're not 100% certain of their true meaning.

"Invert," I think they said. That was the polite term. We all used the impolite one, but not all of us really knew what it meant.

But Mr. Rossiter was an upstanding older gentleman. He was polite to everyone, never said an unkind word, and let people skip on their bills for a while if they got in over their heads. And while Bradley was quiet, and tended to let his "boss" do the talking, he was gentle and kind, and an extremely hard worker.

So no one made a big deal about the reality behind those words, and no one made any trouble for either of them. Whatever went on behind closed doors and drawn shades, late at night, it was no one's business but theirs.

As it should have been.

Then came the crash in '29, and my !@#$ neighborhood became even !@#$ier. People just barely hung on to their homes, the repossession truck was on the prowl, and every time you turned around someone just up and ran off, or ended it the only way they could.

We didn't have much to begin with, so when I tell you we lost everything, maybe you can figure out what that means. Dad stood in line for day work, mom was barely holding it even, and what little money me and my siblings could scrounge up was just enough to keep us in roof and food.

Times like that, you need someone to turn to, or someone to blame. Some people are happy to provide you with both, and most of them are happier still to do it for a fee.

Which is why my parents dragged me and my siblings off to the tent revivals whenever they pulled in to sell us Jesus. And boy did they ever.

Fire and brimstone, pain and death, Heaven and Hell. If I'm so good at using the great unsung armies of the world to fly off to fight evil in great apocalyptic battles, I think part of it's because I was getting in on the ground floor when I was just a kid, watching those snakebiters and whiskey priests froth at the mouth in anticipation of the End Times to come. They knew how to work up and work over a crowd, that's for damn sure.

But then came the day that it wasn't enough to preach about sin, and preach against sin. They began to demand to know who was sinning badly enough to cause God to turn his back on us, and bring the Devil in.

And everyone was happy to confess their small transactions and shortcomings before the Lord in the hopes that the economic downturn would be lifted up by angels on high. Hell, they were even happier to denounce one another if no one wanted to fess up. It was one big hill of chickens trying to peck one another to death for Jesus, starting in the morning and ending in the evening, and I loved it.

I mean, heck, it sure beat school. 

But when the lifting never happened, and people got antsier and more desperate, so they had to figure out who wasn't there to confess. Who was holding the neighborhood back and down? Who was sinning against God and unrepentant?

Who indeed?

Which is why an angry mob stomped from the revival tent, through our !@#$ neighborhood, and down to Mr. Rossiter's flower shop. It was getting dark so we had torches. Some carried them unlit to use as clubs. All the while singing "Onward Christian Soldiers" at the top of our lungs.

If there was a plan, I had no idea what it could have been. Break down the door and demand a confession? Smash everything for God and country? Run them off? No one explained anything. I don't even know if they had a plan.

But the moment they got to the front door, the plan was over.

There were Mr. Rossiter and Bradley, one in a nightshirt and one in pajama bottoms. Both of them were unamused.

And both of them were armed with Winchester Model 1897 pump action shotguns.

Mr. Rossiter had one of the older kind that he'd used in the Spanish American war. Bradley had the modified kind, which they called a Trench Gun. The ones the Germans hated so much that they threatened to summarily execute any American soldier they captured carrying one.

He'd carried it throughout France. They hadn't taken him, but judging from the bullet wounds in his chest they must have come close on more than one occasion.

They obviously didn't take his gun, though.

"You all want to back up and leave, now," Bradley said: "I like you all, and I know you all. I'm going to just chalk this up to high spirits and bad times. But if you want past us, you will have to walk through lead. I don't think you want that."

The Preacher started yelling something about Jesus. Everyone screamed and yelled and, for a moment, I thought they were just going to surge forward. But Bradley walked down the steps, apparently unafraid, and pointed the gun right at the Preacher's chest.

"You know why we called the Germans the Huns?" he asked: "They all had belt buckles that said Gott Mit Uns. I think it meant 'God is with us.' Maybe they believed it and maybe they didn't. Either way, they lost.

"So unless you know something they didn't, I'd back up a few steps and rethink this one."

The Preacher was lost for words, for once. Someone in the back started yelling again, but didn't catch on, and then Mr. Rossiter came down and spoke his peace:

"I thought we were friends. I thought we were neighbors. Tell me I wasn't wrong. Please."

Maybe it was the guns. Maybe it was an old man crying. Maybe it was Jesus, finally showing up and telling us to get behind him. But the crowd started dissipating, like smoke, until no one was left but the two men on their front steps.

No one spoke of that night again. The florists continued to prosper, in spite of the times, until Mr. Rossiter died of a heart attack, two years later. The whole neighborhood came out for the funeral, possibly afraid of Bradley coming after them if they didn't.

Bradley handed the business over to Mr. Rossiter's sister, who didn't want him involved in it. He got another job, somewhere, and last I heard he went back into the Army after Pearl Harbor.

I've never been able to find out what happened to him. Maybe that's for the best. I hope he died with honor and was buried with it, like a man who served his country. Like so many others, united in service and in death, all other facts of their lives washed away with their blood.

I took three things away from that night.

First is what Two Face told the Fresh Prince in that Men In Black movie. A person is smart, but people are stupid. We have to be on guard against idiots who want to rise others up in hate and fear, no matter the excuse or the reason. That never did anyone a lot of good, and never did anything but get people killed for hardly anything at all.

Second is that, standing there, looking at Bradley on the steps in the firelight, glowing with sweat and muscles rippling, I felt something. I wouldn't know what that something was until much later, when I wondered why I didn't feel the same way about girls as my little brothers did, and had more in common with my sister than maybe I should have.

I think back on that night a lot, and dream of kissing him hard and full on the mouth, like a man. I dream of thunder in the sheets and my body driving him down into the bedsprings.

I dream of a world where he and Mr. Rossiter could have marched hand in hand down the street, open and unafraid. I dream of a world where they could have gotten married and had that piece of paper mean something in every state, and every nation of the world.

I dream of the simple power of a word more powerful than any slur or taunt. I dream of that word and know it has few boundaries. I dream of a time and a place where that word is raised on high, and cherished, and we don't have to be afraid or beat down bullies or fascists or religious zealots to defend it.

I think of Bradley and I dream of the word "love." It really just is that !@#$ simple.

And third is that trench guns are awesome pieces of military hardware that have been improved upon, but never quite duplicated. I have ten scattered around in various locations. I always have one nearby when I'm away, and I never go into the field without one.

My name is SPYGOD. I run The COMPANY. I killed Hitler, saved three Presidents, am 101% queer as !@#$. And you can bet your sweet, tanned ass this dress, these earrings, and the lipstick matches this Winchester.

Maybe not the eyeshadow or the heels, but !@#$ it, a girl's gotta be daring once in a while.

(SPYGOD is listening to Dreaming of the Queen (Pet Shop Boys) and having the prettiest little umbrella drink you ever saw, with a cocktail gun instead of a sword)

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