Harold Jaffe's docufiction

Things To Do During Time of War
by Harold Jaffe

cover image of Terror-Dot-Govfrom Terror-Dot-Gov
(Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2005)

     Wednesday, six-fifty a.m.
     Wakened out of a dream.
     Your father--long dead--is in it, and you as a child.
     Also a blue guitar, or maybe a banjo.
     You suppress the dream, shuffle to the machine.
     Access email.
     104 messages, 97 of them SPAM.
     (You installed an anti-SPAM filter but the cyber-terrorists are always a step ahead).
     Delete SPAM.
     Post an email message.
     Post another.
     Post another.
     Send a fax.
     Consult electronic address book.
     Send another fax.
     Shuffle into the kitchen.
     Switch on the miniature kitchen TV.
     Stock quotations from major markets worldwide.
     Charts, graphs, visuals.
     Experts' commentary.
     Part and parcel of the global economy.
     Does global mean totalitarian?
     It would be cynical to think "yes."
     Well, cynics sit at their computers and go to the bathroom.
     They have mothers and fathers like everyone else.
     You grind your beans.
     Brewing coffee.
     Add vanilla.
     Designer coffee, low-carb toast, buttered.
     They claim now that fat's all right.
     Swallow your vitamin packet with papaya juice.
     Recommended for digestion.
     Switch off the TV.
     Coffee refill.
     Carry the mug of coffee to your machine.
     Delete SPAM.
     Asleep, awake, it multiplies like cancer.
     Post another email message.
     Scan pertinent web sites.
     Check the weather online.
     Heat, smog.
     What else can it be?
     Scan the LA Times online.
     The wars they are a-spreading.
     Disclosure of torture in international prisons.
     Americans no less.
     The business sector is booming.
     Oil futures up, dollar steady, unemployment rising.
     No, it's employment that is rising.
     Sorry about that.
     War insures investment hence insures the peace.
     Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the Koreas, Indonesia, Horn of Africa, Sudan, Yemen, Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba . . .
     What's up with Cuba?
     Cuba post-millennium encourages foreign investment.
     With all of its setbacks, it's still a fairy tale Caribbean isle with much to offer in the tourist sectors especially.
     Born-again Cuban capitalists shuffle their feet, smoke restlessly in the wings, waiting for Fidel to finally croak.
     Neither the FBI nor the CIA could off him, but now his beard has turned white.
     Dude has to drop dead sometime.
     Scan the LA Times sports section online: cheerleading, skateboarding, water-skiing, water-skateboarding, bungee jumping, shark hunting with sharpened dildos, beach volleyball, bowling for fat people, "world series of poker" from Las Vegas, midgets racing monster trucks, French-kissing piranha, extreme suicide . . .
     Fiercely competitive, every one of them.
     Sip your coffee.
     Exit email.
     Put your machine to sleep.
     Shower, shave, floss, brush, apply cologne, insert contacts.
     Boxers, white tee, socks, shirt, tie, suit, shoes.
     Wallet, keys, cellphone, American flag lapel pin, ID nametag, black leather briefcase.
     Clip the nametag to your lapel.
     Out of the condo, into the garage.
     Into your new white SUV.
     Set your briefcase on the passenger seat.
     Your new SUV is white like the winning side in the ongoing war against terrorism.
     Ongoing because the war will not cease until the white hats impose their will.
     Such is the price of democracy.
     Smell the spanking-new leather upholstery of your new SUV.
     Open the garage door with your remote.
     Start the potent, sweet engine and the radio comes on.
     Today, it turns out, is Orange Alert day.
     So declares Old Squarejaw, chief of Homeland Security.
     Al-Qaeda operatives with identical black mustaches and explosives taped to their bodies have slipped across the borders.
     Likely through Mexico.
     Report any and all suspicious humans.
     You turn off the radio and insert a CD.
     Hook your cellphone on the dash.
     Turn on the A.C.
     Off to the office.
     Receive a call on your cell in your white SUV.
     Make a call on your cell in your white SUV.
     Consult your electronic phone book.
     Make another call.
     Accelerate to 80.
     Speed kills, but not in your white SUV.
     Rides like a sharp knife cutting through butter.
     Change lanes on the freeway.
     Mutter at the other drivers.
     Mentally compare other SUVs on the freeway with your own.
     Fast-forward the CD.
     A swarthy subhuman with a black mustache pulls alongside you in his black Citroën sedan, makes agitated gestures, then lowers his window and shoots you in the head with his Beretta semi-automatic.
     You're dead so you don't make it to the office.
     Actually you don't die, you aren't shot, you make it to the office.
     Turn into the underground lot.
     Park in your middle manager slot.
     Turn off the A.C.
     Employ your secure ID to enter the building.
     Employ your secure ID to enter your sector.
     In your office you set your black briefcase on your desk.
     Framed photo of your adolescent daughter from your divorced marriage on your desk.
     Girl's name is Holly.
     Divorced wife's name is money-lust demon from the nether regions.
     Inventory the messages on your office phone.
     Scan the eleven faxes, eight of them SPAM.
     Remove your suit jacket and hang it on the coat hanger.
     Your next promotion will mean a larger office and small closet to hang your suit jacket in.
     If you're lucky.
     Move to the computer terminal alongside your desk and access your email.
     119 messages, 103 of them SPAM.
     Delete the SPAM.
     Post eleven messages.
     Send three faxes.
     Make six phone calls from your cell while sitting at the terminal.
     Access CNN news online.
     Another suicide bombing, another helicopter gunship attack, more torture uncovered, another savage beheading, oil prices rising steeply thanks to the Arab oil cartel.
     Orange Alert will continue at least through the weekend.
     Send for coffee, double latte from Starbucks.
     Phone buzzes, meeting at eleven in the boardroom.
     Latte arrives.
     More phone and online business.
     At the meeting a VP with a bad hair weave addresses the managers.
     Earnings are up this quarter but they could do better, must do better.
     Or else.
     "Or else" implied not spoken.
     Not unlike the official orders to "interrogate with firmness."
     Sanitized way of saying "torture the gooks."
     The army reserve drones called up to serve in Iraq prisons understand.
     The national guard drones called up to serve in Iraq prisons understand.
     After the boardroom meeting, a hurried buffet lunch in the cafeteria downstairs.
     Back at the office, more calls, online contacts, faxes, another meeting, more coffee.
     Decaf this time.
     You're back in the white SUV, on the freeway, 6:12 pm, gridlock.
     Receiving calls, making calls, switching lanes, muttering at other drivers.
     A swarthy subhuman with a black mustache pulls alongside you in his black Citroën sedan, makes agitated gestures, then lowers his window and shoots you in the head with his Beretta semi-automatic.
     This time you do die.
     Nonetheless you return to your condo at 7:18, pull into the garage.
     Inside at your computer are 111 messages, 103 of them SPAM.
     Eight faxes, six of them SPAM.
     8:05 p.m.
     Enema time.
     Warm water, not hot.
     Mix with a teaspoon of chamomile tea.

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