Chapter One - Annaís Antics
Wake up, Brownsville! Iím Artie Garcia, and this is The Morning Mongrel News!
Mark your calendars, boys and girls, because youíll want to tell the grand kiddies it was on August the 12th of 2117 when the folks of D.C. finally got back to the business of good old-fashioned politics. Or at least thatís how it seemed yesterday, when the bill to dissolve all Republican sectors hit the floor at The House Of Representatives. In fact, if this were television, Iíd show you the bold, black, two-inch high, Washington Post headline Iím looking at that reads, "GRIDLOCK IN THE HOUSE!" Personally, Iíd have thought íhizzieí said it better, but hey, thatís just me. Still, after a century, itís good to see politicians up and arguing again. At this rate, you can bet itís only a matter of time before the real entertainment begins. You know, like drugs, sex, under the table payoffs, airline stewardesses hiding in the closets, and everyoneís favorite, mud slinging. Heck, we might even have to bring back the Nielsen Ratings!
In other news, it looks like yet another Republican based corporation, which shall apparently remain nameless, was robbed and vandalized this morning. According to the authorities, it happened sometime between the hours of one and three a.m., and as in a number of similar instances, the name íDiabla Thaneí was discovered written in lipstick on the floors, walls, ceiling, and in this case, the foreheads of several rather distraught security guards who had been found bound, gagged, naked, and still suspended above the spotlights of the company logo.
As a reminder for those few who may not have been following it, the Diabla Thane story started back in the summer of 2106, when a shapely stranger in a black hood began singling out numerous Crusty hovercrafts, like the highwaymen of medieval Europe, robbing them, and often kidnapping and ransoming them back to their families and/or corporations. And although Miss Thane and her associates would seem to have graduated to a higher level of profit yielding crime, numerous accounts of accosted Crusties continue to credit Diabla Thane with their substantial losses in personal possessions, as well as the siphoning of personal and corporate credits to unnumbered overseas accounts. Many claim the íallegedí victims are simply wealthy people who have discovered a new way to successfully file fraudulent insurance claims and to divert corporately debited stock market losses that have quite often turned out to be originally funded by federal trust funds. Others insist Miss Thane is a modern day Robin Hood, taking what the reluctantly reformed government is so slow to provide as relief for those less fortunate ethnics who have yet to feel the positive benefits of our recently evolving society.
Both Conservative and Liberal factions have expressed concern, but as usual, are divided as to the nature of the robberies. Republican leaders feel this is obviously the action of a terrorist organization, while Democrats insist that for a group to be classified as such, evidence must first be established to indicate a political affiliation behind their actions, and some sort of related goal in mind for what has been stolen. Otherwise, they are nothing but common criminals with uncommon skills.
This debacle has been a growing source of tension between the parties for several years, but with the recent emergence of several known terrorist factions attempting to claim the credit, including The World Ethnic Coalition, it would appear little or no progress has been made, despite an ongoing joint effort to engage the Coalition in negotiations. To date, the only reply made by Coalition spokesman, Osjami Castro, is, "Too long, has the stench of the American Capitalist wafted across the globe, unchecked. Too long, have they desecrated the sanctity of all Human Races with their pathetic failures to hinder the rampant abomination of Mongrelism. A new day of purity will soon dawn, and when it comes, so ends the age of the greedy and the impure." Obviously, Osjami doesnít share the ísupposedlyí official and well-documented antiracial views of his great-great-great grandfather. And of course, many have had their own speculations on the subject of grandpa Fidelís sincerity when it comes to political posturing versus political activism.
Even so, and regardless of the same tired rhetoric of age-old bigotry, in also claiming responsibility for the break-in, the group that has come to be known only as, "The Dirty Rotten Bastards," duly dubbed by their first corporate victim, has unofficially established their twenty-eighth major raid in less than three years. And following no discernable pattern, other than no State has been hit twice so far, well, at fifty-one States, the authorities would appear to have twenty-three chances left, after which, and considering the rapidly amassing wealth in question, Iíd just like to let Miss Thane know, Iím chiefly Latin, with Scottish undertones, just a hint of Bororo Fulani, and enjoy Beethoven, P. Diddy, pina coladas, and long walks on moonlit beaches.
"Hi, Iím Anna Riley! By 2107, everyone-"
"Youíre not supposed to introduce yourself, you idiot!"
"Iím not an idiot!"
"I knew I should have been the one to do this."
"Thatís because youíre perfect, arenít you? Little miss goodie two-"
"Just shut up and do the monolog!"
"I canít shut up and do the monolog. I mean, I could shut up, or I could-"
"Okay, Iím sorry! Jeez!"
Ahem- By 2107, the year I was born, everyone in the Republican sectors had long since come to realize the sudden drop in Caucasian birth rate was not simply a matter of birth control, or at least no sort of control for which they were in control.
Thatís when they turned to my grandfather, the now late (died peacefully in his sleep at the ripe age of eighty-seven), Senator William Roosevelt; the man who not only derived an antidote for a virus designed by Arians to wipe out all non-Caucasian humanity, but actually sent a reverse version right back at them, via his daughter, (my mother) Holly Warren. You know, itís really amazing how cooperative self-righteous, genocidal bigots can be, especially when their only other option is identical to the fate they had planned for all us supposedly ílesserí bipeds. And to be perfectly honest, sympathy for the upper Caucasian crust was at an all time low by the time they wised up. Oh sure, they still controlled the world economy, and even though their military had slowly shrunk to about ten percent of its original grandeur, nuclear weapons were just about the only card left up their expensive little sleeve. So, with the waning of their once formidable intimidation tactics, it wasnít surprising that the remainder of the World (about ninety-five percent Mongrel and proud of it) simply giggled its butt off when they started broadcasting a plea for assistance.
Nevertheless, Grandpa was still willing to help the Crusties (upper crust) out of their little predicament. Of course, there were a few provisos, like the reinstatement of the Democratic party, open elections, the resending of all economic exclusions for anyone below the sacred single Tax Bracket, (which in itself initiated a few more brackets), abolishment of The Heston Act, (a mutilation of The Right to Bare Arms, -donít even get me started on that one), and the restructuring of certain agencies, like Social Security, Medicare, The Department of Human Services, etcetera, and obviously, Dan Quail was immediately denounced as íGenius Of The Millenniaí. In return, he provided them with an antidote, but just as a precaution, he hinted that were they to renege another more powerful version that had already been designed, produced, and was being held by a number of operatives in key locations. At first glance, this might look like a terrorist tactic. On the other hand, if such a tactic is the only thing standing between you and total annihilation, then the whole ethics debate sort of takes a back seat to basic survival. As it turns out, some of the loftier points of morality are just another kind of convenience, like a microwave oven. Itís nice and all, but not absolutely required.
Accordingly, the underground network of bogus churches that had been fighting for Human rights for almost the entire past century, finally disband, unexpectedly dropping the national religious population by nine and a quarter percent, according to a very surprised GOP news team. There was that one day (July 4th of 2110) when the entire network came together for the first and only time. My sister and I were too young to attend, but the way Maud tells it, the whole thing sounded a lot like that shindig from about the middle of the twentieth century. I forget what it was called, (Wood Lick? Wind Sock?), but, then again, ancient historyís not exactly one of my strong points. Anyways, all the affiliate agents met up in some park in New York, and according to Maud, it was like the biggest fiesta block party in recorded history.
All of that was well and good, but far from the final solution everyone thought it would be. Because, when you get right down to it, thereís always someone out there just looking for an opportunity to stir up trouble. As my Papa always said, "We live in interesting times." Well, Iím here to tell ya, íinterestingí on that scale is only fun in movies and books. In reality, itís a bona fide pain in the ass!
"You canít say ass!"
"Uhh, you did."
"Aahheeee!" Maud cried while dancing from atop the bar.
"SeŮora!" the barman shouted enthusiastically, then tossed a long stemmed rose which Maud absently caught between her teeth, never missing a beat as her hands, clapping above her head, kept time with her heels which struck the polished oak in furiously quick succession as the musicís Latin rhythm led her in tight circles about the wide brimmed sombrero.
"Címon, sis," I nudged Polly in hopes of breaking her out of her academic trance. "Youíre missing it!"
"Umm, -k. Be through in a sec," she muttered, never taking her eyes off her homework.
"Gimme that!" I barked while yanking the reading glasses right off of her face, (the text yet scrolling down both lenses), jumping out of her reach before she could retrieve them, then leaping from the floor to my stool and hopping over her hand as she íattemptedí to sweep my legs. "You canít go through life like its all just preparation for the next trig test!" I shouted at her just before leaping to join Maud, both of our sweetly executed grins lending a taunting quality to our co-syncopated footwork.
Several intense moments passed as Polly continued to stare daggers at me before she finally softened, matched our grins, and then jumped up on her own stool. "Iíll probably regret this," she growled as I danced by, continuing to grin, (Papa says I get my cartoon kissy face from my mother), like a Cheshire cat. Momentarily, her own newly acquired grin spread, and all of the sudden, she jumped in between me and Maud, falling into step with our (more than just a little bit silly) hat dance. Hey, Iím ten! Iím allowed to be silly.
Of course, thatís about the time Papa stepped through the saloonís double swinging doors, his expression not wholly dissimilar to that of Joe Kid. You know, right about the point in the movie where he finally confronts the main villain? -Not exactly one of my shinier moments; not to mention Pollyís own massive embarrassment at being caught south of the border (at age twelve) in a cantina, by Papa of all people, and just about thirty seconds after she had finally been coerced by yours truly (please note my smirk) into following Maudís bad example.
"I can almost understand Anna!" Papa shouted at Polly while pointing at me. (Actually, Papa shouted a lot while we were growing up. -Mostly at me.) "Sheís been in trouble since she was old enough to read the number off my credit card!" (So true. -Still smirking) "But you, Polly?"
"Oh, Papa! Iím so sorry!" Polly lamented as she abruptly burst into the earnest tears of the revoltingly good girl she was.
"You had best wipe that expression right off your face, young lady!" he turned unexpectedly, glaring at me with those squinty Eastwood eyes.
"Sorry, Papa," I mouthed indifferently. Unlike my sister, I knew the difference between Papaís bite and bark. Thatís not to say a certain minimal requisite acquiescence wasnít required, even if the adherence to which wasnít precisely enthusiastic.
"And you!" he turned his glare on Maud.
"Donít you go taking that tone with me, ya jackass! I didnít invite them. They just, -sorta showed up."
"Uh-huh, likely stor-"
"No, Papa. It isnít Aunt Maudís fault," I insisted.
"Donít tell me youíre taking the credit."
"Certainly not," I assured him in a ídonít be ridiculousí tone. "It was Polly."
They all three turned to face me, (Oh yeah, I do dig the limelight) and bearing similarly incredulous expressions.
"Oh, címon!" I rolled my eyes. "Iím joking!"
"Youíre grounded!" he proclaimed, emphasizing said proclamation by slamming my door shut before stomping around to the driverís side.
I took it in stride. Thereís an old cop show (canít remember which) that has a motto. It goes something like, "If you canít do the time, then donít snatch the ChargeItAll card from out your Auntie Maudís purse when you know perfectly well Uncle Charlie has nothing better to do than spy on your every move." -Or, something to that effect. Anyways, my point is, I can do the time. Besides, I donít always get caught. Sometimes, when everything comes together just right, skullduggery can be a downright beautiful thing. Hey! In my family, ten is too young for boys. Actually, I have no interest in boysÖ yet. The majority of them smell like wet dog hair, and those who donít, canít be trusted around my Barbie collection. Anyways, between that, an oddball parental group made up of ex-underground anti-crusty agents, and íGlenda the Goodí for a sister, well, I gotta have some kind of outlet, donít I?
Pollyís expression softened, though she was shaking her head, as if to tell me, "When will you ever learn."
"Both of you!" Papa intoned, to wit I almost lost control of a rising snicker.
"But Papa!" Polly began as the car lifted.
"But Papa, nothing," he waived dismissively at her impending amnesty efforts. "You didnít have to tag along, now did you?"
"Frank?" Maud began in a tired tone.
"Donít you start with me, you old gorilla bitch!" Papa shouted threateningly as he glared at her via the rearview vid-panel. "My god, Maud! Youíre pushing seventy! You need to be playing shuffleboard, not traipsing off to cantinas with my kids in tow!"
"Jackass, Iím about to do more than just ístartí with you!" Maud hissed dangerously, and then paused as she and Papa suddenly seemed to realize us children were present. "Weíll talk about it later," she finished in a more subdued tone.
"Ya damn right, we will," mumbled Papa, along with several other things I couldnít quite make out, but could easily guess.
"Would it be okay if we stopped at the old church," Polly asked in a small voice, the intended manipulation of which seemed outside both adultsí range of comprehension. Actually, having been the recipient of a Rep-Guard attack, (back when there was a Rep-Guard), the old íchurchí wasnít much more than a blackened crater with a couple of half standing brick walls. But the adjacent cemetery was perfectly intact.
"-Oh..." Papa stalled, unprepared to downshift to such softer feelings. "You know, weíve got a really long flight ahead of us, sweetie. Salt Lakeís over two hours from here, and you both have school-" He cut himself short as Maudís vehement expression became visible in the rearview. "Well, maybe just a brief stop," he amended.
Our mother (Holly Warren) died not long after I was born. I know better now of course, but there was a while there, well, I suppose I sort of grew up feeling responsible, her death being so near my birth and all. Donít get me wrong. It wasnít exactly guilt, so much as guilt for myself, mixed with anger at Holly for leaving me, -I mean, us. Anyways, I guess thatís what they call ambivalence. But when Papa found out about it, he was quick to set me straight. He explained how Holly had always been obsessed with the Sea mongrel, (a submarine she and Uncle Danny built with their own hands) and had both insisted on personally overseeing the test procedures of certain upgrades themselves, which as it turned out, ended with their deaths. He wouldnít go into greater detail, (actually, I think he was about to break down right in front of me) but said I should never feel her passing was in any way connected to me. But when I asked about the submarine, he wouldnít look at me; just sort of stared at the wall and muttered something about it being dismantled and sold off in pieces.
Itís always been something of a sensitive subject, and other than that one time, nobody (other than my sister, who is just as ignorant as I am despite íanyí claims she may have to the contrary) ever seemed to want to talk about it, so I let it go. I was something like two months old at the time, but Polly, two years my senior and always more than happy to remind me of it, soaks up all the Holly Warren tall-tails that spew from every ex-agent who stops by to pay their respects. Iím always like, "Big honkiní deal." Itís not as if the woman was ever any part of our lives. Exactly what good are grownups that arenít around to be grownups? Am I right, or am I right?
Papa was always talking about Holly like sheís some kind of legend. Polly ate it all up like candy, but personally, I really never got it. I mean, what exactly was the point here? Thereís no moral lesson to be learned from simple survival tactics. And since all that business happened before my time, then how precisely am I expected to wax nostalgic over crap I didnít witness? Besides, from all the empty eco-bottles (breaks down twenty-four hours after expiration) of beer stacking up in the trash bin, Iíd have to say nostalgia wasnít doing that much for Papa either. I guess he figured ístoriesí about a mother was better than no mother at all. He was wrong of course, but I still loved him for trying so hard. As far as that goes, I loved my Aunt Maud as well, (even though sheís got as many or more íback in my dayí stories as Papa) and I think I speak for sis when I include Charlie, though heís been slowly loosing marbles ever since I can remember. Well, having passed his eightieth birthday, (yep, that was one fiery cake) I reckon he had a perfect right to be shy the occasional marble. Maud told me he used to be what was called a Price Fighter or some such. Thatís when people used to square off and punch the begeebees out of one another till someone yelled uncle and gave up their purse -Maud used to carry a purse. It was nice, I suppose, but I canít rightly say Iíd be willing to give up all my begeebees over it. In any case, I recon after youíve lost enough begeebees, you end up spending about half your time loading your diaper and drooling down your chin, and the other half thinking itís forty years ago. Thatís how it is with Uncle Charlie anyhow.