Tuesday, April 17, 2012

3/10/12 - Whatever You Do You Can't Stop Falling

It's the Summer of 1929, and New York City's streets are hot enough to fry eggs on. The air reeks of sweat, and tempers are as short as the temperatures are high. Dumb things are said, bad things are done, and the only way to escape the consequences is to run like !@#$.

That's exactly what (REDACTED) and two of his younger brothers, are doing right now -- running like !@#$.

Some ill-tempered things were exchanged between them and the Irish family from down the block, and it didn't quite stop with words. So now (REDACTED), Edofardo, and Cesare are booking it through the city streets, trying to avoid getting anything worse than the black eye Edofaro's sporting, or the bloody nose (REDACTED) is holding into.

(Cesare, being the youngest, was short enough to duck and cover. Lucky him.)

(REDACTED) is leading the pack. He takes them over boxes and crates, leads them past street vendors, hustles them down back alleys, and tries every trick he knows to lose the !@#$ing bastards. Unfortunately, they know these streets, too. And they have more friends. Every time the three brothers turn a corner, the mob behind them has swelled by about one or two more young, angry heads.

His mind is racing along with his feet. Should they split up? No. If the Irish catch one of them, alone, there'll be another funeral in the family.

Should they turn and fight? No. There'll be three funerals, at this point.

Should they turn and say they're sorry? No. See above.

Running, then. Just keep !@#$ing running. Run run run run run.

And he's so busy running he doesn't realize he's just run into his older brother, Ignacio, who was on the way back from the Cuban grocer with some produce for grandmother. They tumble to the ground, the paper sack breaks, and Cesare and Edofardo trip over the two of them like something out of a movie.

The Irish kids screech to a halt, maybe ten feet from the pile up, and start laughing. (REDACTED) looks at Ignacio, who looks at his younger brothers, and their injuries. Then he looks back at the large group of kids, gets to his feet, and cracks his knuckles.

(REDACTED) grins, rises, and does the same. 

Ten minutes later, both Ignacio and (REDACTED) look like they went a few rounds with Jack Dempsey. But you really should see the other guys, all limping home and holding their faces together with their hands. Cesare and Edofardo are in sheer awe of their older brothers, and are carrying what groceries they could salvage from the busted bag as they quietly make their way home.

"Next time you want to pick a fight with the Irish, leave me the !@#$ out of it," Ignacio scolds (REDACTED). His younger brother looks up to him and sniffles, feeling about three inches tall, right now. But then he sees Ignacio wink through a swollen eye, and knows the simple truth about family.

Right, wrong, or !@#$ed up, they will always have your back.

* * *

It's years later, and now the city is running cold and hot. Cold because it's early December. Hot because it's the day after the day that's going to live in infamy, according to what the President said.

"You ain't fighting in that war unless you got to," Mama is scolding both her oldest boys, waving the late city edition of the Times around their cluttered, aromatic kitchen: "You get drafted, you go. But you ain't volunteering. I won't be having my boys dying for this country. Not when good family at home needs our help."

Ignacio and (REDACTED) look sheepish. She has no idea they already volunteered this morning. Them, the guys across the hall, the man down the landing, and men and boys up and down the street. Even the Irish kids down the way, God take their eyes. They were all lined up at the recruiters, this morning -- hoping they can do something.  


Before getting in line, which was already quite long by that point, (REDACTED) looked at Ignacio and wondered aloud: "You think we should be doing this? Mama's gonna have a fit. You how she is about the home country."

"Yeah, when she ain't giving up the Church and everything that comes with it. I gotta sit through one more of those crazy tent things I'm gonna go crazy."

"But I hear Italy's in cahoots with Germany and Japan-"

"You know what? !@#$ Italy," Ignacio said, smiling: "You heard the stories Grandma, God rest her soul, used to tell. Where was Italy when Grandpa made the wrong people angry and couldn't get work? Where was Italy when he had to come over here, huh? And then he got off that !@#$ing boat with a couple coins in his pocket, and Italy finally shows up, but just to take those coins."

"Well, yeah. But-"

"But nothing, (REDACTED). Everything we have, we made over here in America. You and me? We were made in America. This is our country. This is our family. And when the family's in danger, you put up your fists."

Suddenly (REDACTED) can't quite think of what to say. It's like that time when he was staring at Mr. Rossiter's "business partner," Bradley, the night the revival went bad, and feeling that strange thing that's haunted him all these years. He doesn't know what this moment means, but he knows he has to follow it, because it's right.

Mama doesn't find out they're in the Army until they've left for training. She doesn't forgive them until halfway through the war. But in each and every letter, she tells her boys to watch out for each other, because they're family.

And, even though the War takes them in very different directions -- Ignacio to the Pacific, (REDACTED) to Camp Rogers, and then Europe -- they do they best they can to obey her.

* * *
It's well after the war, and (REDACTED) goes by SPYGOD more than his own name. He doesn't visit home all that often, partially for security reasons and partially because he's so !@#$ing busy, being a national hero and all. 

(That and, let's face it, his mother drives him up the !@#$ing wall with her nagging and worry. Hasn't be been in the Army enough? When is he going to get a nice girl and settle down?)

But he always has a phone line open for her. And when she calls him up, one night, with that horrible tone of voice that means she's breaking, inside, he's back in New York City before anyone knows he's gone. 

"You have to stop him," she tells him, her fingers pale and her face wrinkled, looking like a ghost under the black clothes she's worn since Papa died: "You have to talk sense into him."

By 'him' she means 'Ignacio,' who came home from the War a changed man. Still loves his mother, still a good man, but no longer willing to obey her as readily as he once did. 

(Yes, she's overlooking the volunteering thing.)

"What's Ignacio done?" SPYGOD asks

"He's fallen in love with a Cuban girl," she says: "The one that works at the grocers you kids shopped at."

"What's so bad about that?" he asks, trying to remember the girl: "Is she not Catholic?"

(Yes, she's given up on evangelism, too.)

Mama can't say for crying. It's just too much, whatever it is. So he goes over to Ignacio's apartment to get an explanation.

His brother opens the door, happy to see him but knowing why he's there. Behind him, seated at a table, is a young lady that SPYGOD doesn't quite recognize, except that she bears a striking resemblance to the son of the lady that ran that grocers, all those years ago. 

Then she lifts her head up to smile at him, and it's more than enough for him to see her adam's apple. Suddenly he understands.

He looks at his brother, smiles, and hugs him -- long, strong, and unflinchingly. 

"You too, huh?" he laughs.

"Yeah," Ignacio says, laughing and clapping his brother on the back: "Me too."

They talk for quite a while, after that -- the three of them. They laugh and cry and argue and get a little drunk, and laugh and cry some more. Then they hug and depart, brothers always, and SPYGOD can't believe how happy he is that his brother's found someone.

But when he gets home to his mother, he swallows the truth inside him, and just tells her that he couldn't get through to Ignacio, either. And when she goes insane in her own kitchen, throwing her prize plates against the floor and screaming that that man is no longer her son, every word burns him like fire from shame. 

* * *

The Korean War is raging, and SPYGOD's in the thick of it, but he takes the time to read his brother's letter from start to finish.

(Sitting on what's left of some glowing supercommie as his corpse cools, and the light slowly goes out of him.)

The key paragraphs that stand out for him are these: I wish we could stay here. I wish we could be part of the family, still. But our mother and Cheri's father won't see us. My own brothers spit at me, now. 

And mother... oh mother, I know I've broken her heart, but what can I say? She told me not to lie, but I guess she didn't want me to volunteer the truth, either.

SPYGOD feels numb, right now, re-reading that. Numb and ashamed.

The rest of the letter goes by in a whisper, but the salient point is this: they're moving to Cuba, which, in recent years, has turned into something of a non-stop party. Between Cheri's family and the local non-existent social mores, they should be fine.

"!@#$ing Cuba," SPYGOD curses, knowing full well that the place is a corrupt snakepit, and no place for a dignified lady like Cheri. However, given his brother's tendency to put up his fists when family need defending, he figures they'll be okay.

As long as they're careful.

* * *
It's early 1961. Another wave of escapees from Castro's Cuba have come to America's shores. And SPYGOD has received word that Cheri is amongst them, and asking for her help.

There's no word about Ignacio. He's terrified about what that could mean. 

Halfway to Miami he learns she's not in holding with the other refugees, which he finds understandable, given that she's a US Citizen. However, halfway again, he learns that she's under arrest. Something about public indecency and resisting arrest. 

He finds her in a waiting room at a police station. Apparently her mode of dress -- worn without thinking while escaping -- caused a few eyebrows to raise, and bluenoses to overreact. A serious bruise is developing under her left eye, and it's clear it was delivered post-arrival.

After sticking his gun in a few faces to find out who assaulted his sister-in-law, beating the !@#$ out of the persons responsible, and securing her release from the now-terrified constabulary, SPYGOD gets Cheri into his car and drives them away.

"What happened?" He asks, holding her hand: "Please tell me what's happened, Cheri."

"Oh, my Ignacio," she cries: "The soldiers came for him. He tried to stop them from arresting someone harmless. A schoolteacher who talked to much, told too many jokes. He stopped them and they told him he was dead, and he just laughed. You know your brother. He said the Irish in New York didn't scare me, the Japs in the Pacific didn't kill me, Batista in Cuba was afraid of me, what are you going to do?"

"What happened?" He asks, knowing he isn't going to like the answer.

"They came for him. Twenty men with guns. He roared at them and told me to get out the back. He had a suitcase packed for us both. I ran and ran, and he screamed like a lion. Roaring at them to take him if they could. And there was gunfire, and I looked back, and..."

She breaks down into hysterics then. It's all SPYGOD can do to hold her hand and drive while crying.

A few days later they have a token funeral service, given that they'll probably never have a body to bury. Mother is long dead, and neither of his brothers will attend if Cheri is there, which she is. So only his sister Maria, her husband, their children, his elderly aunt, and some of Cheri's younger siblings will join them. They cry and pray and drink and argue and cry and laugh and cry some more.

Less than four months later, he's in Havana, trying to kill Castro. That doesn't work out so well

* * *

"Now, see, if that Kennedy idiot had had a real plan, that bearded !@#$ would be dead by now," Nixon's saying, pounding his desk and laughing with Ford, Kissinger, and all his advisers: "We wouldn't have to be worrying about supercommies in our own !@#$ing hemisphere."

Everyone laughs at that, and SPYGOD just bites his tongue. After all, he's the one who's been doing his best to make sure that the President's "real plan" -- aka the CIA's Operation Mongoose -- has been going nowhere for the last few years. In fact, he was just informed, not that long before this little meeting of the minds, that yet another shipment of poisoned cigars had been intercepted by his people in Havana, and 'creatively rerouted,' as they say in the business.

(One of his Strategic Talents actually EATS cyanide as part of a well-balanced diet. Go figure.)

"Yeah, I think he was going to have someone go down there and talk him to death," Kissinger says, his deep European voice a never-ending source of amusement.

"That would be his way, wouldn't it?" Someone else -- a balding, weasel-faced fellow with an atrocious mustache -- adds: "Simpering East coast liberal faggot. Probably thought he could get in bed with him by getting in bed with him."

For some reason that comment gets the most laughs so far. And for some other reason -- maybe somewhere, deep on the cellular level -- SPYGOD decides he's had enough of this !@#$

"That simpering East coast liberal faggot got his PT boat blown out from under him, back during the War," he says, tasking a none-too-cautious step towards the President's desk: "He dragged one of his crew to safety with his !@#$ing teeth and held onto him until they were rescued. What the !@#$ did you !@#$-streaks do during the War?"

There's silence, for a second. He can see the shock building behind the President's little eyes, and, knowing its going to turn into outrage at any moment, decides to press the attack.

"Further, I can personally verify that the simpering East coast liberal faggot you're talking about got more !@#$ than a toilet seat. He used to say he got a headache if he didn't drain his balls at least three times a day, and he had no shortage of women willing to help. I saw him do three at once in this very office, gentlemen. One right after the other, like oysters."

"Now see here, sir--" Nixon stammers, but he's silenced by the rage in SPYGOD's eyes.

"The man !@#$ed Marilyn !@#$ing Monroe, gentlemen. In the !@#$. In his wife's bed. And while I know he'd hardly be the only gay man in the world who would do her, too, I can verify that his motives were entirely heterosexual."

"How would you know what a fag thought, (REDACTED)?" Ford asks: "I mean, I know some of those capes are a little swishy, but-"

"Because I !@#$ing am one, sir," SPYGOD says, putting both hands on the desk: "I've known I was a homosexual since I was old enough to know what one was."

The weasel-faced man harumphs: "Looks like someone's wanting an early retirement, Mr. President."

"Oh, is that what you think?" SPYGOD says, straightening back up: "I killed Hitler, you mustachioed little douche. I run our Strategic Talents program. I saved that simpering East coast liberal faggot of yours from an assassins' bullet, and... gosh, how many times have I !@#$ing saved the world? I don't think I have enough fingers and toes to count, buddy."

"Look, I think this conversation's gotten a little out of hand," the President says, putting his hands up in surrender: "No one here's saying you should quit, SPYGOD. Your country owes you several times over. But... could you be a little less gay around us?"

SPYGOD snorts: "Half your burglars are queer, Mr. President."

That ends the conversation, then and there. In the future, the President records all Oval Office conversations, hoping to catch such nuggets of truth so he can hold them over people's heads. That doesn't work out so well, either.

But no President, from that point on, ever uses the F-word in SPYGOD's presence. They don't even dare do it while he's in the same building that they are. It's understood that the man is what he is, and it's best just dealt with, or left alone.

No one wants to make him angry, knowing that he'll put up his fists for family.

* * *

Now it's more than 45 years later, and President Nixon is dead. He has gone full circle from loved to disgraced, then begrudgingly rehabilitated, then ultimately forgiven and beloved in death.

Kennedy's gone, too, just recently. His wife, Marilyn, still grieves. Ford and Kissinger slipped away, too, but no one really made much of a big deal over their passing, given their unfortunate proximity to Nixon. 

The mustachioed douche did jail time for the same thing that brought Nixon down, and is something of a cult hero amongst certain conservative circles. He has a radio show and books and people love him for things that they should rightly despise him, for. 

(And every time SPYGOD sees him, he uses SPYGOD vision to make him !@#$ his pants.)

SPYGOD's younger brothers and sister are dead. Their children's children, and their children, have no idea that he is related to them in any way, shape, or form. Part of this is for their safety, and part of this is because they cut all ties to him after certain facts came to light. 

To her eternal credit, his sister, Maria, did not care, and loved him anyway. But still the secrecy is kept, so that her descendants will not be bothered by science terrorists in search of blackmail material.

And Cheri? She found love again, years later, and spent the rest of her life with that man. Before she died, SPYGOD made her a promise, and took custody of her ashes after the funeral. 

Now Fidel Castro is dead. And, as SPYGOD and Dr. Krwi have been making their way through the violent, burning city of Havana -- sometimes by car, sometimes on foot, depending -- they hear that his brother, Raul, may also be dead. Or possibly in hiding, or surrendering to the yankees in The Flier. Who knows the truth?

But as they've been making their way across the city, SPYGOD's been carefully steering them in one direction. Once they get there, just outside the city limits, the Doctor has to ask why they're stopping in this large, lonely field where no one has sown any crops, or placed any buildings or signs.

And SPYGOD, by way of an answer, pulls out a jeweled box, maybe the size of a small piggy bank. The old man had seen it, sitting on the desk in the apartment, and wondered what it was. But when SPYGOD opens it, somewhat reverently, and starts to scatter the ashes inside it out onto the hot wind, and then onto the ground, he begins to understand.

"I love you, big brother," SPYGOD says, smiling through the tears: "I love you, too, Cheri. You rest easy, now. Your fighting days are over. We won."

They watch the clouds settle for a time, and then get moving before the mobs descend on the burial grounds, too. 

(SPYGOD is listening to Love Comes Quickly (Pet Shop Boys, Disco remix) and drinking tears of sorrow, and joy)

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