Wednesday, July 29, 2009

East of the Light

By Jim Parks

Rudy saluted Bubba when he came out of the water after he had lashed the ends of the purse seine back together in a circle and we waited for the fish to gill off in it, to become packed in the mesh in their panic..

He stripped and stood in a jock, staring into the sun overhead, balanced on the rail outside the pilot house. His hair looked blue, so black and glossy in the sun, his brown Caribe skin sweating. He fought the grin that kept threatening to capture his face, make him burst into a long series of giggles.

With a flash of white teeth, he shouted "Chingada!" and dove into the ultramarine blue water beside the net where the bull sharks had been eating in a frenzy, chopping up the fish who were caught, tearing holes in the mesh, making the water foam with a froth of reddish blood soon fading to brown and dissipating to a green tinge in the warmth of the sun.

The stream comes closer to the mainland U.S. there than anywhere else - less than a mile.

It's not like in the Keys where there are chains of coral reefs and islands. This is a huge limestone peninsula washed by the warm water out of Africa and the Caribbean, bound for the British Isles and the European continent, thence back to the tropics.

In the stream, there are game fish and schools of mackerel, tuna, jack, all competing for the needle fish, anchovy, squid. You can see them from above - a thousand feet - a shadowy gray stream within the deep blue stream, moving along in a frenzy of feeding.

The boats work with airplane pilots who radio to let them know where they are jumping at baits shoved to the surface and sometimes out into the air. Everything moves briskly in the stream, at about six knots, to the northeast.

As Rudy jumped, Hector shouted "Ai! Cojones!"

Bubba stood transfixed, watching as Rudy splashed back to the side of the boat and climbed the rope ladder dangling over the side.

He pulled Rudy's arm, boosting him back over the gunwale in the crisp December air. They stood beaming at each other for a moment, then they embraced, laughing.

"It is necessary, no, cabron? It is necessary," Rudy said.

Bubba grabbed him again and they hugged, taking each others' crucifixes between thumb and forefingers and kissing them, slapping each other on the back repeatedly.

Simultaneously, almost whimsically, they spit into the ocean where the bull sharks still chewed at the net, the fish blood foaming, the dorsal fins working it all into a froth.

Then they both put their clothes back on while the rest of the crew slammed batten boards on the deck to panic the fish in the water beneath her keel, to make them try to swim out of the encircling pursed seine.

We drifted along to the northeast until the pilot in the little 150 buzzed us and we started to feed the foot ropes over the dishpan winches overhead, faking the loaded seine down on deck, shoveling ice over the fish in layers, faking another layer, then more ice, finally tarping the whole load and heading for the inlet and the fish house, the twin V-8 turbo Detroit diesels singing in the engine compartment under the fiberglass deck, the hull struggling to plane in front of the propulsion nozzles proven in the shallow waters of Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Brazil.
We headed back through the inlet, ignoring the other boats stopped by Customs and the Marine Patrol, Coast Guard. It was not our fate today.

Only we knew what lay beneath the stinking mass of fish and netting.

It would be a long night and a longer day after.

We were heading home. We were East of the light. That meant sewing up huge holes in the mesh, holes chewed by bull sharks in a frenzy of feeding upon helpless Spanish mackerel in the deep blue waters over the marl where tons and tons of gold and silver and cannon and bronze hails lay at rest after endless northeasters that blew it all to smithereens long, long ago.

Cojones. Yes, cojones.


Sunday, July 26, 2009


By Jim Parks

Sister did it for the attention, according to certain of the brothers and their wives who were strict adherents in the beliefs and practices of The Church.

They said she had never been stable and would never be, that she was touched by evil, that the Lord could not walk with her on any continual basis. They made excuses for her. They looked away embarrassed when she would show up barefoot on Sunday mornings with her purse in one hand and her heels in another, having stripped her voluptuous bare legs of her stockings, her hair askew and her dress wrinkled and dirty.

She wiped her eyes with cocktail napkins she had stuffed away in her purse, gaudy things printed with logos that said "Kit Kat Klub" or "Primrose Room." She would stroll into the churchyard with her head down, casting glances at the faces of the disapproving matrons and the knowing gazes of the old boys.

She was just that kind of girl - a woman full blown and mature at an impossibly young age only too willing to play with men full grown and just passing through. They would drop her off and cruise away in their old cars and pickups and she would walk down the old cut bank dirt road and up the holler, her finely arched, fabulously sculpted woman's feet carrying her to the door of the little whitewashed chapel through the collection of aging cars and the gaggle of gawking worshippers.

On a Wednesday night it happened in the middle of Prayer Meeting. The terrifying spectacle held the congregation spellbound. The door burst open and Sister fought a half dozen of the men of the Church as they forced her down the aisle. Two of the brethren brought her struggling and cursing to the altar. A half-dozen people held her down and laid on hands while the preacher spoke in tongues and beseeched the unclean spirits to "come out of this woman."

He shouted and railed at them, crying out in a rich baritone, "Let this sister be. Let her alone, I say."

Sister struggled and fought. The muscles in her neck and her torso sprang into full relief, her abdomen writhing and her legs thrashing out as she caught them off guard with kicks of her heels and the slashing attacks of her pretty blood red lacquered nails.

Her face, twisted and hateful, looked as evil as they said she was under its layer of makeup and lipstick. She was a female human being under the most extreme of circumstances. When it was over and she had succumbed, she cried and cried and cursed them at the top of her lungs.

A trip to the mental health center and thirty days observation on a locked ward didn't really change her behavior.

She still loved men, couldn't keep her hands off them, preened, undulated, warbled and flirted with them any time she got the chance.

A woman in her group therapy class got her in touch with a lawyer from the city. He came up from the mill town and had her sign papers that got her a settlement of several hundred thousand dollars against the church and the insurance policies of those who had abducted her at her home and brought her to the church to be exorcised of the demons they were so sure they could expel from her finely proportioned, well-muscled and symmetrical being.

On appeal, the state supreme court ruled against the judgment. The justices said it was the religious right of those people to worship as they might see fit. They called it a landmark case in the newspapers nationwide.

Sister moved away.

She sent one old boy a postcard from a beach town in California.

It said, "I'm sure enough glad you ain't here. And I damn sure am glad you don't even hardly know how to get here, fool."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Army Revokes Major's Orders To Deploy To Afghanistan

By Jim Parks

The Army spared an officer the duty of serving in Afghanistan after he filed a lawsuit claiming he doesn't believe that President Obama is the legitimate President of the United States of America.

Major Stefan Cook filed a Federal lawsuit against the government.

Within a short time, the Army revoked his orders to deploy to Afghanistan..

His attorney, Ms. Orly Taitz, has demanded strict proof of the President's nativity. She requested a "vault copy" of the President's birth certificate.

Officials in Texas and Hawaii, when contacted for comment, said they had never heard of a "vault copy" of a birth certificate.

The event of President Barack Obama's live birth in a hospital at Honolulu, Hawaii, was recorded under a procedure that requires doctors and clerks to send a certificate to the State Registrar of Vital Statistics. In Texas, this document is kept in a vault equipped with a halon fire extinguishing system and subsequently recorded electronically.

Certified copies printed on security paper may be purchased under the strictures of certain rules and regulations, according to Geraldine Harris, Texas State Registrar of Vital Statistics at the State Health Services Commission.

It's a very big deal for many reasons. In the case of President Obama's nativity, it is extremely pertinent because the Constitution requires that a President be a native born American. Hawaii State Registrar of Vital Statistics Alvin Onaka was unavailable for comment. An assistant in his office said she, like Ms. Harris, has never heard of any certificate of a birth event being referred to as a "vault copy."

"Do you know what this means?" asked Ms. Taitz, the attorney who claims she is representing 170 soldiers who have questioned the legitimacy of the President's authority as Commander in Chief. "It means the Obama administration has blinked. They have no cards to play with. The moment I filed a lawsuit, they didn't even fight.

"Can you imagine what are the consequences? This is disastrous...We'll have no military because any time a soldier, any sailor, any airman does not want to follow any orders, all he has to do is call an attorney and say 'I don't want to follow this order because I question the legitimacy of the commander in chief.'"

As an Individual Mobilization Augmentee, Major Cook had volunteered for a year's deployment of Afghanistan on May 8. His orders were issued on June 9, according to Lt. Col. Maria Quon, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Human Resources Command at St. Louis. As an augmentee, his status allowed him to ask for revocation up to the time of his reporting date. Cook had not asked for this. Col. Quon said she could not say why the Army had revoked his orders. She cited the Privacy Act.

In the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia on July 8, Ms. Taitz told the court that Major Cook does not believe Obama is a natural-born U.S. citizen, and so cannot serve as president and commander-in-chief.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

He chose to be glued back together

By Jim Parks

When the emergency surgeon offered him a choice between sutures and a new method of closing knife wounds, he chose to have the doctor super glue his flesh back together.

He was slashed twice, once across the chest over the pectoral muscle group, and once across the abdomen over the rib cage, just over the traversing colon and spleen. A day later, he was up and working again.

From behind a thousand-yard stare, as he talked, he gazed through the plate glass window of the Firestone Store, a middle-aged counter clerk more used to taking credit applications and processing orders for tires, batteries, wheel alignments and tune-ups than fending off deadly attacks by edged weapons.

"They were grown men," he said of the two blacks who attacked him because "They said they wanted all the money."

There was only a little bit of cash to be had. Most people pay with credit cards or have their purchases billed on their Firestone national account.

"I think it was drugs that affected their judgement," he concluded, looking back at the computer screen, ready to dismiss the moments of terror when the pair walked into the store, which is located just across the street from the Santa Fe division yards in the old railroad town of Temple, Texas.

In broad daylight, just a stone's throw from City Hall and the police station, the pair had walked in and demanded the cash.

"One of them struggled with me. We kind of wrestled back and forth; then he hit me with his fist and he cut me then. I didn't see the knife until I saw the blood and saw I was cut."

A day later, when the battery on my pickup failed and I wheeled in to have it replaced, he and other clerks were still cleaning up blood smears and the residue of black fingerprint powder left behind by detectives who had investigated the robbery the day before.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Local Preparations Underway for a Projected Flu Pandemic

By Jim Parks

Fifty Pakistanis board jets at various locations around the world, all of them destined to arrive in the U.S. on the same day for a brief visit.

Without knowing it, they are carrying out a deadly attack against the people of the United States of America.

Since symptoms of infection with flu virus are not detected for at least three days after exposure, they are not aware they are sick - at least not yet.

They could just think they're on a mission to carry the good news of the Islamic faith to a mosque in Detroit or L.A., then fly home to continue spreading the word of The Prophet Mohammed. Walking through the arrival and departure lounges of O'Hare, D/FW, LAX or Kennedy would spread the disease to the rest of the world within a day's time, according to a local official who gets paid to think of these things.

The problem is this.

There are no security scanners with the ability to detect the flu virus. Making people take off their shoes, walk through metal detectors and x-raying their luggage won't get the job done, either.

No matter how it gets here, cool weather will bring the pandemic of H1 N1 swine flu virus raging back full blown, as it is at this time in the southern hemisphere, said Dewey Ratliff, Bosque County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator.

The Center For Disease Control and the World Health Organization declared the epidemic now to be of pandemic proportions, a simple distinction that recognizes an epidemic has become global.

Do some research. Look up the flu pandemic of 1918, a geopolitical event that is credited with stopping World War One in its tracks. Quite simply, there was no one left to fight. Everyone was either sick or dying, so they called for a cessation of hostilities, an armistice.

The origin of the pandemic was traced to Camp Dodge, Iowa, thence to the troop debarkation point at Philadelphia, and on to France. Ernest Hemingway wrote a short story about its aftermath. It's called "In Another Country."

The best recommendation of the smart money in the offices of emergency preparedness coordinators and public health clinics and research labs is to take prophylactic measures, self-quarantine yourself and family for 10 to 15 days, lay in a supply of food, cleaning supplies such as chlorine bleach and peroxide, hand sanitizer and anti-biological agent-effective detergents, and wait it out.

If you're sick, stay away from healthy people; if you're healthy, stay away from sick people.

It will pass.

How do you do that? Just buy a ten-day supply of foods every time you shop for a week's needs. Within a few weeks, you will have yourself a well-stocked food pantry - enough to last for your quarantine period - and you won't have to pay the high prices the survivalists want for their freeze-dried products.

If you garden, can all summer long. Eat some fresh; save the rest.

Don't go to the grocery store, Wal-Mart, the bank, the post office or any social activity such as church - or any indoor gatherings at all. Wait 15 days and see if it doesn't get better.

Get Tamiflu if you don't have it left over from the H5N1 avian flu epidemic of winter, 2005. It's expensive, but it's worth it because it does not cure the disease, it allows you to weather the symptoms if you are infected with the virus and let the disease run its course instead of becoming weakened and developing the complications of pneumonia.

This medicine sold for $100 a dose then; it's now about $145 per dose of two gel-caps for five days, to be taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms such as aching joints, headache, sore throat and cough. If you wait until flu season, it won't be available - at any price.

Pharmacists estimate it is effective for 10 years if properly stored.

Kids's doses in liquid form may be obtained through the advice of a pharmacist or doctor. All require a prescription, something easily arranged over the phone if there are no local supplies. Check the internet. Do some comparison shopping.

Anthrax attack through the mail? A high school student did an experiment involving an ordinary domestic household iron set at 400 degrees fahrenheit for five minutes that wiped out every spore inside an ordinary postal envelope, according to "The Journal Of Medical Toxicology.' No need for gamma irradiation or the kind of clean-up techniques that cost $27 million to disinfect the Senate Office Building or the $147 million it took to clean up the Brentwood Mail Distribution Facility in Washington, D.C.

"I'd rather be prepared than scared," Mr. Ratliff said.

Stay away from other people and keep your kids and spouse away from the population and out of warm, crowded places if and when it hits us.

This is war, he said.

The original germ warfare campaign occurred in 1347 when the troops of Khan Djam Bek started to get sick and die of what turned out to be bubonic plague. The Muslims catapulted the bodies of their dead over the walls of the Christian Crimean Russian city of Caffa. This spread the highly contagious disease to the besieged population inside and infected Sicilian merchants sojourning there. They eventually escaped and made their way back to Italy. The disease followed the trade routes and the rest is a really bad news chapter of history.

The resulting pandemic is estimated to have reduced the world's population by about one fourth over the course of the next two years. The result, deprivation, starvation and social disintegration - the Dark Ages.

The cause of the two diseases - plaugue and influenza - are mutually exclusive, but they both have a similar resulting complication - pneumonia - if not treated proactively. The viral infection of flu weakens the body's immune system and makes a person susceptible to the bacterial infection of pneumococcus.

Plauge virus, often called anthrax, is carried in spores that are found on every continent, including Antarctica. They are entirely effective, even after one hundred years or more. The pesky stuff has no prolem finding a host and thriving. Bubonic plague attacks the lymph glands and swells them, causing hemorrhagic eruptions that weaken the systemic functions of the body and kills within four to seven days. Pneumonic plague attacks the lung tissue, destroying it and turning to a watery consistency. It will drown a victim within four days. Septicemic plague poisons the blood after first forming a lesion. It can kill in as little as 8 hours.

"This stuff is like a terrorist," Mr. Ratliff told me. "You have to go after it and kill it with antibiotics...Viruses only live about 10 to fifteen days. They will run their course and die in that length of time."

Mr. Ratliff is a cheerful man who has equipped his entire department, including his pickup, with Federal grants.

From his office on the second floor of the tax collection building, 20 to 30 people can run the County from computers, radios, and any other form of communications equipment necessary.

Despite what the doomsayers insist, he still believes there is such a thing as the Posse Comitatus statute which prohibits Federal troops from taking over in an emergency. Governors must call out their National Guard troopers, citizen soldiers who are controlled by the state but paid by the Federal government. He said he doesn't look for a Federal military takeover by executive fiat.

He explained his primary mission this way. "We're here to make sure the local government survives...The individual citizen can do a lot to make sure he and his family survive if they will only use common sense and accept our help."

A chilling comment as we parted, friends, vowing to get together soon for a cup of coffee:

"Those bodies you saw floating in the water in New Orleans? They didn't drown. They were murdered. There was no local government in New Orleans after the hurricane. Everyone from the Mayor on down fled and left that city defenseless. The criminals could do anything they wanted to do."

Mr. Ratliff says he and other local officials are here to stay. He has pamphlets filled with suggestions for solutions and survival strategies free for the asking in his office located in the 100 block of Main St., Meridian.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Death In The Life

By Jim Parks

It's a living.

Maybe that's why they call it the life.

I've often wondered. It's depression proof, recession-proof, proof positive that men and women are just right for each other, but - and this is the hell of the story - it just isn't bullet proof.

As outlaw and raunchy as the life is, it just isn't something that is done any which old way. There are rules, ways of doing things, little courtesies and not a few tender mercies - all in the eye of the beholder.


I don't think anyone was surprised when the shootist came looking for the Jack of Diamonds, Diamond Jack to most who hadn't played the game - but just plain Jack to we who lived on the row.

The row.

You have seen it all before, whether you knew what you were looking at - or not. You may have caught a glimpse, just a glimpse, from the window of a squealing, grating, hooting, farting train rolling slowly in or out of town, or through the windshield of a taxi as you waited out one of those inexplicable traffic jams that happen most any afternoon in any big city as you made your way from the airport to the expense of the hotel accounted for through departments and committees and controllers and the rest of the bureaucratic maze of mazes of mazes of amazing fortune, the fortunes, the fortunate.

It's what remains of America's hell towns, the little settlements that ebbed and flowed in the path of the railroads, the gold rushes and coal fields and oil strikes and land grabs and wars of attrition and racism and just plain old sorry-ass hate.


That great equalizer, that pulse in the right arm of the world, that gleam in the eye of the beholder, that bright, sharp and white hot pain shooting from nerve ending to nerve ending across endless synapses facilitated through the unknown chemistry of the chemistry of the chemistry of the chemistry of the mind, the nerve, the muscle and grit and bone and sinew of that which is only experienced, never fullly understood, moment to moment to moment. The life is all about who has what and how they got it and how much they will scratch, bite and fight to keep it - sweat and stink and peep and hide and bribe to pay, pay, pay that mordida de mordida de nada de nada de nada de nada.

No one was really surprised when the shootist showed up with a suitcase and a satchel made of soft Mexican goat leather that showed the shape of a take-down shotgun through its supple skin.

Those who know, know; those who don't are in the dark, the darkness on the margins of the rotarian, the libertarian, the booster and bouncer and the romantics in the reserved nickel seats, the ones that are reserved for the unknowing.

Diamond Jack probably never knew he was touching off a war when he fell for the dark-eyed, petite, sporty little new chick they brought into the spot joint on one end of the cost differential and loss leaders of the row and he flipped when he got a load of her looks and her figure and her soft voice and the depths of her eyes and the light and lilting manner of her stride.


No other name, just Ramona.

Diamond Jack, pimp.

He broke the most basic rule of his profession, that cardinal point on the compass card that keeps the whole enchilada on course, keeps the platter from spinning madly out of control and away and gone.

He fell for one of the ho's.


Now, this girl knew she was just passing through, knew it better than she knew her street name.


She knew how she got to that particular part of the row, that funny little spot joint down at the end of the row where the pastel glued sawdust panels and aluminum window frames and phony, phony, phony little colored lamps and iron balconies and the nasty-smelling little swimming pool all conspired to put the finishing touch on any john's thrill on the hot sheets.

Diamond Jack, pimp.

He just couldn't accept the fact that this seemingly docile taste from nowhere could turn down - spurn - his advances. He conspired in various ways to keep her from hopping the bus with the rest of the crowd and easing on to the next spot on the tour of the tank towns where those chicks work between stops in Nevada and Idaho and South Carolina and all the other silly places where they sell romance by the minute and it's okay, just fine, just another matter for the pussy posse to police, prod, massage and prune to the local tastes of the local - ah - community.



Diamond Jack, pimp.

Wiry little mean little evil little fool.

Diamond Jack, pimp.

He got a little bit evil and he started tying her up and standing her up tied between two iron pipes in an out of the way loft over an old warehouse where they put on freak shows in that part of the row, made her stand there wide-eyed while he threw darts at her eyes and she dodged and screamed, whimpered, wet her pants, struggled against the ropes.

She had bit his chin while he hurt her one afternoon - a total no no on her part, a total no no on his part, to jack around with the help, try to hurt her, try to - oh, you know.

She paid with the loss of sight in one of her eyes, some deep and ugly scars on her forehead and a lifetime of completely freaked out ways of thinking and looking at her fellow humans.


Life for her was far from over, but life as she had known it was over for her - forever.

Sociopath that Diamond Jack was, he never stopped to think of the consequences of all this. After all, there are ways to do things and the kind of people who organize the business of shipping ho's from one spot joint to the other, taking and raking their dough off the top and up front, they don't tolerate that kind of behavior.

Somehow, his sociopathic mind never even registered the fact of the matter. So, when the shootist arrived driving a plain jane Chevrolet in a shade of dirty white with a very big engine and smiling that oily, charming smile some men smile from behind their shades, he didn't give it much of a thought. Diamond Jack didn't have enough sense to go crazy or he would have gone crazy long, long before.

The truth is that Diamond Jack was as unwitting as a rat suddenly dropped into the cage of some lethal pet snake while the freaks in some 24-hour dope house sit and watch with sick fascination to see how the snake takes him, takes him in, then swallows him whole.


The shootist caught him sitting down to a poker game in a crib on an alley way, way downtown. He kicked the door in with a combat engineer's lace-up steel-toed boot and ushered Ramona across the threshold, the old Model 97 .12 gauge Winchester "Trench Sweeper" leveled, his finger on the trigger of that thumb buster.

He covered that crowd of pimps and other folks like the daily news; he'd done it all before. He nodded at Ramona. She nodded her head back at him and squeezed a round off with the government model .45 she held in her two tiny hands, sighting down the slab-sided barrel with that one eye.

The bullet caught Diamond Jack with his mouth open - an expression of total surprise in a perfect circle of flesh and teeth and jawbone - slammed into his shoulder and flipped him ass over tea kettle, backward, away from the table. The shootist squeezed the trigger and started pumping the old gun for all it was worth, the .12 bore belching fire and black powder smoke and double ought charges and wadding with each stroke.

When he stopped to reload, no one was there to register with ringing ears the sudden fact of the sudden quiet. He drew the other government model from a cross draw holster threaded through a two-inch gunbelt on the waistband of the cheap suit he was wearing while he cradled the trench sweeper in the crook of his left arm and slowly, with not a small amount of ceremony, circled the table, putting the coup de grace in each man's forehead.

Then he winked at Ramona and covered her as she backed out of the room, following her down the stairway to the Chevy and a quick, quick ride out of town to the darkness where it creeps in from the prairie, driving circles and squares and making a false start down one way and then another before he doubled back and checked out the flashing lights and sirens from a completely neutral and brand new direction.

He put the car in a slow turning high road gear that eats the miles and cruised at a legal speed to an airport in a town a hundred miles distant, dropped Ramona at the departures lounge, and doubled back again, driving back through the town at a slow speed, just smiling and living the life behind his shades in the new and sudden dawn.

He had done it all before.

Old timers like the shootist know that it's the getaway that counts. Anyone can do the rest; not everyone can make that getaway.