Surrealist Doodle

Surrealist Doodle
This was used as the cover of Karawane in 2006 and I have included it in on a number of bags and postcards over the years. Someone on the subway asked me if it was a Miro. I was very flattered!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The Protest: Scene from my Accursed Novel

When Clark walked into the house, he heard yelling come from the living room. He set his backpack down by the door and ran in to see what was wrong. Maureen was sitting on the floor stuffing envelopes and screaming at the television.

"You fucking lying bastard! How can you sit there and say that shit?!"

"Mo?"

Maureen looked up at Clark. "Oh, Hi. Can you believe these guys?"

Clark leaned over and kissed Maureen on the top of the head. "I thought you were being raped or something."

"You're so melodramatic sometimes."

"I'm melodramatic? You're having a premature stroke watching Crossfire and I'm melodramatic? Mo, maybe you shouldn't watch so many of these things. This can't be healthy, even at your age."

"At my age? What should I be watching at my age? Bozo's Cartoon Circus?"

"I'm just saying, that you don't have to watch every news show just because it's there."

Maureen looked at Clark blankly, as if he were speaking Swahili. "That's what they want, Clark."

"There is such a thing as too much information."

"Sure. I can pretend it's not there and sit around watching sit-coms or docudramas and wait for them to show up at my door and drag me off for thought crimes. Or better still, they could find me so innocuous that they would ignore me completely because my brain is so addled and placated . . . "

"That's not going to happen."

"Tell it to a campesina or a Bosnian Moslem."

Maureen to continued to stuff and label envelopes without missing a beat. "I'm just saying," Clark continued, "that one day without being in a snit might actually be good for you. You push yourself so hard sometimes." Clark sat down on the sofa behind maureen and began rubbing her shoulders as she sat on the floor, back to the sofa, with a pile of flyers, a roll of printed mailing labels, and a sheet of stampls on the coffee table in front of her. She leaned her head back against his legs and sighed. Clark leaned forward and kissed her. "Tyranny will still be there tomorrow for you to battle."

Maureen snapped forward and began folding flyers again. "Don't patronize me, Clark. Just because you and your friends got tired and sold out . . . "

"Don't start on this again. If what I do is so shitty, why do you put up with me? Not everyone can throw themselves in front of traffic or chain themselves to the Armenian Embassy."

No. Some of us have to prop up capitalism while me make the pretense we're bringing it to its knees by writing positions papers and textbooks and putting on red face and doing our little Marxist minstrel show for the department heads."

Clark stood up and snatched a paper from Maureen's stack. "And how is this dead tree pulp going to bring fascism to its knees? Political assassinations through paper cuts?" Clark balled up the flyer and through it across the room. "I really want to know, Mo. WHY DO YOU STAY WITH ME? I'm so clearly inadequate. Am I your practice? If you can improve me, you can improve the world? Or is it just that you can't hang onto your rich Mommy and Daddy forever while you live in your fake poverty, so I'm the least onerous way for you to get a hot meal and a roof over your head and get fucked every once in a while?"

"Fuck you."

"Is that it? Does it make your clit hard when I recite Das Kapital? Or is it just the sexy way I draw out Hegel's dialectic?"

"Maybe I just wanted an A in poli sci."

Clark kicked the table away from Maureen. Stamps and papers went flying and the stapler landed with a thud inside the upended table.

"Why do you do this? You know we never dated while you were in my class. Why do you have to be such a bitch when you're mad?" Maureen cringed against the couch with her hands in front of her face as Clark stood over her screaming. "Why are you crying?"
Clarked stormed upstairs and slammed the bedroom door. Maureen could hear the deadbolt turn and Clark was slamming things down on his dresser. She started when she heard something smash against the wall overhead.

Maureen sobbed loudly, gasping for breath, as she got up and set the coffee table upright. Her hands shook while she gathered up the flyers and supplies. She fished around in the couch for the remote control and turned the channel over to a cartoon. Mechanically, she folded, stapled, stamped and labelled a few more flyers before finally giving up. She crawled onto the sofa and lay down, cradling a pillow in front of her. She stared blankly at the television, sobbing quietly.

At 4:10, Clark came downstairs and looked at Maureen, who had falled asleep curled around the throw pillow. He touched her gently on the arm and she jumped up, startled and scared. Clark sat down beside her, putting his arm on her shoulder.

Maureen snuggled against his torso, trying to go back to sleep. Clark lifted her to her feet. "Let's go to bed. You'll be more comfortable there. I'll help you with your mailing in the morning."

"What time is it?"

"After four. C'mon." He led her upstairs to their room, leaving the lights and television on.


In his small apartment, Clark woke up in the middle of the night, briefly disoriented. He lay on his side in the dark, trying to orient himself, to remember where he was. Once he finally remembered, and realizing he now needed to go to the bathroom, he rolled over in bed, fully awake now. He saw a very small man, no more than 3 1/2 feet tall, the same size as the divider between his kitchen and dining room. The little man had a wrinkly face. He was hunched over, wearing a dirty little trench coat. His face looked like a caricature, like a drawing of Jimmy Durante, with the big nose and big eyes. He put up a stubby, swollen wrinkled hand and waved at Clark, then before Clark’s eyes, disintegrated, decrystallized. Clark immediately jumped out of bed and began sorting socks and underwear. It was 5 a.m. Within 10 minutes, he was dressed and out the door, headed for the fluorescent lights of an all-night laundromat.

The next day, Maureen loaded up a few signs and began to drive around town, collecting her friends. The five of them had planned to drive to the nuclear power plant outside of town. No big deal, just issue a few manifestos, stand across the street with some signs, show that not everybody wanted to go inside the plant for a sanitized "tour" promoting nuclear power. As an older plant, this one could potentially have some real problems, and Maureen and her friends wanted to open the debate--a debate that had seemed absent in this community.

Not too far from her hometown, maybe 150 miles or so, the power company had put up a nuclear plant, promising the residents that the lake, built to cool the plant, would provide recreational opportunities. There were images right out of the Simpons of people boating, fishing and swimming right next to the twin towers of the plant. The thought of swimming in a lake that was created for and fed into by a nuclear power plant made Maureen's skin crawl. Not surprisingly, once the plant was open, the residents were unable to use the lake, due to the proliferation of unsafe microorganisms in the overheated water.

All over the country, unsophisticated small towns had been talked into nuclear plants. This one was on the river. Maureen loved living in river towns, and in fact, had vowed never to live anywhere that didn't have a significant lake or river. And she couldn't stand the thought that this plant was pouring unsafe substances into her river, just like all of the other manufacturers that dotted the shores.
Maureen had sent out a press release a few days before indicating that the local "Greens" chapter would make an appearance at the plant. In reality, the Greens chapter thus far amounted to her issuing position statements and having her friends stuff envelopes. That she had a full carload of people gathered for this event was a major coup, she felt.

Once gathered, the local Greens chapter as now configured, decked out in jeans and tie-dye, knee to knee with their signs and posters in their laps, cranked up the radio and sped off along two-lane highways out to the plant. As they got there, they saw both sides of the road full of police cars--county sherrifs, local cops, state patrol. There were more police cars than there were people in her car. At the same time, she saw no media vans or reporters and this was, primarily, a photo opp. It wasn't like they had any plans at all to shut down the plant or anything. Maureen felt at once terrified and proud of her public relations abilities.

"Shit. Look at all the cops. They must have been expecting a lot of people. Maybe I overdid it with the royal 'we'." Maureen slowed down, but did not stop. One of the police cars, perhaps noticing the proliferation of bumper stickers such as "US out of North America" and "Lobotomies For Republicans--It's the Law" began to follow them in a slow-speed OJ Simpson type pursuit.

"What should we do? I wasn't prepared for this. I just thought we'd come out, read a statement, nobody would notice us, like usual, and then we'd go have pizza."
Everyone in the car murmured "I don't knows" and "what do you think." After a few miles, the police car turned around and headed back, confident no doubt that he had defended the power plant from left-wing nuclear terrorists.

They pulled over and turned the car off. Maureen turned around to talk to her backseat activists. "Ok, let's do this. We go back, and if we see any media, we get out and talk to them. Otherwise, we just keep going."

So the white Maverick turned back and rode back and forth in front of the plant a few times but they were unable to identify any photo opportunities. They headed back into town and stopped off at a diner for debriefing and chocolate shakes. The headline in the next day's paper read "Greens Turn Yellow."

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