October                                                                   GREEN  11.1

      Now arrives the time of our Great National Paranoia. Where is that mythical shoe that haunts our dreams? It's surely going to drop on us and soon.
      Isn't it?

      Somewhere, sometime.
      Yeah, love, that shoe, it will appear and fall, perhaps on some tender moment, perhaps on some starry night.
      We can look into each other's eyes, one more time.
      Romance blooms on a bright Manhattan street cornerÖ
      The intimacy of fearÖ
      Rumors regarding the water supplyÖ

      October is certainly the most fertile of times for this frenzied train of thought. Citizens are fearing the very worst, because, well, because the television tells us so, thatís why, and the screen is not without itís sources.
      We keep hearing about these chilling things that may be happening soon Ė just scenarios, really, jagged but hazy possibilities - like how  we're all gonna fry like trout at a Baptist Sunday picnic. This sort of talk can be unnerving to even the calmest citizens. Some see intersecting lines and envision the manipulation of facts and fears as the harbinger of a newly constricted society. These are the damned, and they dare not speak aloud.

      In rural Tennessee,  a crazy Croatian hijacks a Greyhound bus, slitting the drivers throat with a box cutter, the new weapon of choice for today's modern terrorist. Dude apparently doesn't know how to drive a bus, so instead of aiming it towards a government building or an atomic power plant, he simply rolls the bus down a hill and kills his own sorry ass. The Justice Department, which sure seems to know about a lot of the inside dope these days, tells grateful Americans that the incident was not a terrorist plot, and that Greyhounds are as safe to ride as they've ever been.

      After giving the issue a bit of serious consideration, the GAO comes to the conclusion that the current practice of shipping ready-to-fire Stinger missiles around the country on unguarded Ryder trucks manned by non-union contract drivers might not be such a good idea. Who knew?

      Those pesky Ruskies connive to steal back a little of the limelight by allowing one of their airliners to be blown to bits in midair. Sure sounds like it could be terrorists, but really, you get to thinking about it, maybe they just accidentally blew the plane up themselves in a military training exercise or some other sorry spot of Soviet business.

      Times have really changed, it seems. These days we feel sympathy for the Russians. They are such an awkward and incompetent people. They are far too insignificant to ever bother us again. We buy their wives but not their products. They hardly matter any more.

      On the domestic terror front, Red disappears from the face of the earth in late September, only to be replaced by the even more frightening Red's Wife. Unlike Red, Red's Wife rarely ever speaks to anyone if she doesn't have to. Just talks in lowly modulated threatening  tones to whatever scary companion she happens to be traveling with at the moment. To the rest of the world itís all grunts and glares.  She can say 'Bud', 'Cuervo', and 'Beam' to the bartender, but itís 'yeah', 'no', and 'fuck off' to the rest of the world. You would look across the bar and she would be staring straight at you, and no matter your discomfort, she would not stop looking your way.
      Red's Wife had a far more restricted palate for her complexion than Red did. Her face was the color of chalk left in the rain, which made her rough features take on a disturbingly savage appearance. She always looked as though she were standing in the shadows. She did not change colors, not at all. You would look across the bar and she would be staring straight at you, and you would not want to know what was on her mind.

      On Thursday October 4th there's a weird little item in the paper, relegated to a page two story, about a Florida man who has come down with pulmonary anthrax. Hmm. Health and Human Services, who are certainly in the best position to know the God's Honest Truth, say that this incident is unrelated to terrorism. Official story is that this hillbilly was probably 'drinkin out of a polluted stream or somethin'.

      The war prep kicks into high gear. The Cream of the Taliban Clerics skadoodle the hell on out of Kandahar to hang with their buds on the Pakistan border. Everyone who is anyone is packing up and pulling out. The people who remain are either prepping for paradise or starting to loot whateverís left to loot, which is not one hell of a lot. The meager street stalls are lucky to scratch up a few moldy turnips.
      The hard-core losers in the surrounding areas are mainly the women and children, since all the men are either fighting for some local warlord, or as is often the case, already dead. The losers are justifiably terrified of an impending U.S. attack. It's coming.

     October 7 12:34 EST. Reuters News Flash: War begins. First over-flights reported. Panic around Kandahar. First declared casualty: Oshkar ('Happy') the camel, 16, hit in the butt with a missile.

      News of the air raids arrives three quarters of the way through the Fox NFL Sunday pre-game show. One moment Terry Bradshaw is laughing his fool head off, and the next, the viewer is swept away into breaking news. The network is caught totally off guard by the event. They don't even have sufficient time to locate the breaking news theme music, so of course no one in the bar notices what's going on for a while - people have been trained to listen for the breaking news music Ė but soon there is a gradual wave of people pointing at the screen asking Ďwhat the hell is thatí? Turn up the sound, bartender. Then loud cheering erupts. America is on the attack.
      Oh my, take a good look, we've got land based bombers and fresh cruise missiles, weíve got planes flying off aircraft carriers, and weíre raining down food and bombs and medicine. Mainly bombs. We've got some cool new secret weapons, you'll read about them in a few years. We've even got, for entertainment purposes only, a little British submarine that for PR purposes is allowed to fire off a couple missiles of itís own. British submarine. Hee hee, as Homer would say, a British submarine.

      Uh oh, it looks as if that redneck from Florida wasn't the only one to come down with the Anthrax. And damn, the fellow wasn't even a real redneck after all, he was something far worse: he worked for The Sun. Now  emerges a second reported case, an employee of the same tabloid as the guy who died earlier. Wait a second, we donít recall hearing any news about the guy who drank the creek water actually dying. Was that in the papers?
      Okay, lets draw a cursory line between the evidentiary dots. The authorities have found powdered Anthrax on the computer keyboard of the creek drinker. The geographic location sounds vaguely familiar. Oh yeah, yeah, check it out, The Sun is just a few miles down the road from where some of the hijackers lived and the school where they were taking flying lessons. And didnít the papers say that those guys were checking out crop dusters? Yiiii!

      Red is high on a mountaintop. The Northern Lights are shimmering. The smell of phosphorous is in the air. ďI love the smell of napalm in the morning.Ē Red doesnít say this, but he imagines himself saying it, and the effect is much the same.

      Everybody is extremely jumpy. Osama issues a call for all good Moslems to fight to the death against the American beast. He gets off a good and chilling sound bite: ďThere are thousands of our young people who look forward to death like the Americans look forward to living." Uh ohÖ
     Hmmm. Look at that guy over there with the turban. What is he, friggin nuts? The IRS quarantines a thousand of their employees after receiving a suspicious package full of white powder, which turns out to be white powder.
     Susan gets stuck on the subway one morning when some nut job on the Blue Line shoots at a Metro cop and then showers the bystanders with a mysterious clear liquid. People are stripping right there on the platform. 
     Frighteningly, the USO gears up for a new road show, with Wayne Newton playing the part of Bob Hope.

      Much to Susanís dismay, Stan has become overtly political, his IQ having dropped at least twenty points in less than a month. Itís a new disease, a brain shrinking virus which has spread like wildfire throughout the nation. Medical literature considers the illness a self-induced malady, a direct result of massive overexposure to radioactive television waves. Stan has all the classic symptoms. He has become loud and occasionally  belligerent regarding his opinion of The War on Terror, both at home and abroad. He has developed a new-found respect for George W Bush. He is consumed. Itís this damn terrorism thing thatís eating away at him. The very idea. To be attacked, on American soil.
      During his younger years, Stan had been, let's face it, a total yahoo, later moving politically to the radical left, later moving on to the liberal left, eventually ending up in the nihilistic middle, a place where he has existed comfortably for many years, right up until these last few weeks. Now he's enthralled by the force of the wind. It feels somehow natural for him to be waving the flag. Stan wants to avenge his fallen brethren, he is itching to pick a fight with someone who disagrees with him, but damned if everybody doesn't already seem to agree. Stan feels, for the first time in his life, that he is a part of the great American mainstream. And it's all right, this feeling. For the moment. For now.
      Stan buys flags. He has to purchase them black-market, because there are no flags at K-Mart, there are no flags at Wall-Mart, but Pit Boss Ernie can always come through for you.
      Stan finds it hard to concentrate on the inconsequential business of the entertainment world, so most of the articles that he is churning out are being written on autopilot. You see him sitting in the back of a club, supposedly checking out some hip new band - a good word from Stan could make all the difference to some of these groups - and then you see the blue glow reflecting off his shades from his pocket television.  The checks keep arriving, though, so it's a safe bet that whatever editors are reviewing his output are not paying a whole hell of a lot of attention either. These are such trivial matters.

      Susan has been spending an increasing number of nights at Melindaís apartment. Stan hasnít seemed to really notice, or more likely, hasnít bothered to complain. Really, there is not much reason for her to stay with Stan in his current state of mind, although she does check up on him regularly. He pretends to be distressed by her absence, and perhaps he is, but heís remote and sullen when she comes home and his attention fades quickly.

      Itís fairly hard to get much of a feel for what is actually happening in the hills and caves of Afghanistan. Reporters, with the notable exception of the amazing Geraldo, aren't able to get very close to the action. Instead you have to rely on newly anointed rock-star Donnie Rumsfeld for bare-bones information that you hope and believe is the straight dope. Things really are getting blown up, itís true, but they are not the most interesting of things Ė rocks, caves, old bunkers, and goats. And oh yes, maybe, Taliban leader Mohammad Omar's Chevrolet Suburban with several unidentified foreign individuals inside.
      Bush gives a press conference, and itís clear that he just does not have the feel-good routine down yet. Heís telling America to not be afraid, to get on out and travel, to have a good time, but in practically the same sound byte heís saying that horrendous new attacks are probably just around the corner.
      Has anybody seen that shoe?

      And then there is the happy talk. Because this is a compassionate country.  Wouldnít it be grand, the president suggests, if all the little American boys and girls were to give a crisp U.S. greenback to all the little Afghan boys and girls? Kids who think that this is a good idea are promptly beat up the next day at school.

      On a gloomy Friday, October 12th , the press begins around the clock bio-terror reporting. Very bad things are happening, primarily to the media. Itís one matter for someone at The Sun to succumb to a little deadly poison, but when they start sending Anthrax to respected journalists like Mister Tom Brokaw, well, letís just say the gloves are off now, as far as objectivity is concerned.
      Of course, maybe the gloves should still be on, thatís the prevalent feeling down at the New York Times when a reporter opens up an envelope spiced with the white powder and proceeds to spill it all over herself.  Some paranoid individuals feel that a pattern is emerging hereÖ The Sun, The New York Times, ABC news... NBC News says, yeah, we got it too, we just didnít think it was all that newsworthy.
     Is some crazy Islamic Fundamentalist Terrorist trying to destroy Americaís Free Press? It sure as hell looks like it, and Dan Rather is just keeping his fingers crossed that heíll get dosed before Bernie Shaw.

      Oh man, this is going to be a bad weekend.