# # #
What do you mean, "Can you tell me where you are?" Of course I can tell you where I am. I'm here... that's where I am.
Can I tell you the name of the President of the United States of America? What's his name? Why, his name is Puddin-tame. Ask me again and I'll tell you the same. Huh? What is my name? Well, my name is sure to be Mud... if I keep on talking to the empty air like this... if that old sourpuss Quayles finds out about it.
But, back to the point. Beginning at the beginning... You tell me something, will you do that?
Why do you plague me with your stupid superfluity of philosophical questions when the answers are so basic, so simple, and so glaringly obvious? Are you mad? No, wait just a minute there Bub. It's me that's mad. Not angry, you understand, mad like in cuckoo, like in mad as a Hatter, like in off my bleedin' rocker ol' chap, like in bughouse. Know what I mean?
If I were to be gulled into responding to such kindergarten prattle, then the eminent Doctor Quayles would rescind without fail all my hard won privileges. No reading after hours, no TV, and no further reduction in the quantities of my meds.
Have you had occasion to read that most illuminating Science Fiction short story written by Harlan Ellison titled I have No Mouth And I Must Scream? Yes? No? Oh my dear, you must, you absolutely must acquire a copy and simply devour it.
You asked me why I think the establishment has locked me away.
You inquired as to why the powers that be have seen fit to make me an inmate, to subject me to the whim and fancy of this biological boilerplate, these denizens of dungeons, this population of perpetual prisoners, both the animate and the inanimate, the bloody babbling bobbleheads, the drooling mushbrains, and the nattering nabobs who still mutter and mumble of long dead events that do not matter and never did, pledged to keeping me securely restrained by this narcotic strait jacket in order to grant assurance to the 'normals' of the world that I, the Messiah of the Masses, should ever and always remain, in-cuh-myu-nuh-CAHD-oh.
And, by the way,
Who in all that's holy
Are you, anyway?
Do I cast me upon the wind?
How substantial are you?
Are you really there?
# # #
The restaurant was crowded and the harried waitress hurried from table to table, forcing a smile each time she asked a customer, "Everything okay?"
Genna Greene smiled back at this somewhat pudgy young serving girl who had just refilled Genna's cup from the heavy, dark teapot. Pursing her full red lips, Genna gently blew the steam from the surface of the delicate crystal tea cup, and cautiously sipped the slightly sugared and lightly creamed liquid.
"Thank you, Peggi," she said after a quick glance at the red, white, and blue name tag affixed to the waitress's two-tone beige and brown uniform.
Genna continued to sip her tea, and her thoughts wandered to earlier times, three days ago when she and Nola had shared an old fashioned picnic lunch on the grassy green lawn near the Mall on their quick trip to D.C. It was not all business, that sudden and unexpected summons from The Chief to appear at his office in the nation's capitol.
The next day after the picnic, Genna had been handed an airline ticket and a set of sealed orders, and had boarded a flight to Dallas. Nola remained in the city.
Smiling a gentle smile, Genna whispered, "Ah, Nola, Nola... Wherefore art thou, Nola?"
A clattering commotion at a nearby table caught Peggi's attention and she hurried away to see if she could be of help.
Genna could easily hear the loud, slurred words of the obviously inebriated man at the head of the table as he laughed, pushed empty plates around, and barked orders to everybody who came into his view. She sighed quietly, knowing that an explosive situation was in the offing and that it would more than likely involve herself. It almost always did.
One of the other men at the table, a heavily muscled fellow dressed in dirty work jeans, a soiled t-shirt ripped in both armpits, and an oil streaked faded cap called out, "Hey Joe, tone it down a mite, huh?"
The man the guy had called Joe was tall, slim, and dark complected. And he had big, greenish plaque tinted teeth. He raised a long neck bottle of Bud to his mouth, drained it, and slammed the empty down onto the table.
"Whadda ya mean, tone it down?" he yelled. Then, searching among the accumulation of empty beer bottles, he cried out, "Hey, where's the cheese 'n' crackers?" Peggi approached the table, lifted away a handful of the bottles, and said, "Would you like another order of cheese and crackers, sir?"
"No, girly, I don't," Joe told her. "I don't want no order of cheese and crackers. No, Missy, I sure don't. I want three orders of cheese and crackers. Think you can manage that?"
"Yes sir, right away sir. And the name is Peggi, sir. That's Peggi, with an 'i'."
"Peggy with an 'i', you say. Peggy with an 'i' is Piggy, ain't it? Ain't that right, Miss Piggie?"
His course, loud, and whinnying laughter filled the room. Genna saw the tiny tears form in the corners of Peggi's eyes, and again she sighed under her breath.
# # #
Genna waited outside the door. When Joe came staggering out, she moved up close to him and smiled.
Joe blinked his eyes and shook his head, as if doing so might clear both his vision and his thought processes.
It did neither.
"Hello there, big boy," Genna said, "Looking for a good time?"
"You betcha'," he said,
"Let's move around to the back, okay... where it's nice and dark, okay?"
Joe was unsteady on his feet, but managed to follow her."
When they were alone in the darkness, Genna brought her knee up sharply into Joe's unprotected groin, and as he doubled over she jabbed her stiffened fingers into his throat then palm slapped the side of his nose, and followed through with a slam of her palm that drive splintered bone up into the man's brain.
The next day, on the noon flight from Dallas back to D.C. Genna did not bother to search the paper for news of the untimely death the night before of a man named Joe.
She had more urgent business to think about.
# # #
A clean shaven, carefully barbered, middle aged man stood up from the high backed executive chair directly behind his massive mahogany desk upon which displayed a golden-edged redwood nameplate engraved with: Tobias Zenger, Director. He peered at the ten others who were seated on ornately carved and elegantly padded antique chairs that had been arranged in a meticulously fashioned semicircle facing him.
His audience, a gathering of the world's top experts in various scientific fields returned his solemn gaze in uncharacteristic silence. Any one of the six gentlemen and four ladies would have been recognized instantly by most reasonably informed citizens, who would have seen them often on the TV news, and many times gracing the expert's podium on the more prestigious digitally recorded video documentaries.
The impressively tall and burly director studied their faces, one at a time, his dark browed , deep set eyes moving slowly and deliberately from one of them to the next. No one seemed to even dare to draw a breath.
The deathly quiet in the room continued for what seemed to be an eternity.
Finally, a shaggy bearded giant of a man slowly rose from among the group and said, "My name is Truman Gottlieb, head of research at Demeter University, and I for one would like to be informed as to why I have been so abusively strong armed into attending this ridiculous cloak and dagger meeting."
"Sit down, Professor Gottlieb," said the director.
"No, Toby, I will not sit down. I insist that you answer my question immediately. You might be 'The Chief' to your mewling bureaucratic underlings, but I will not tolerate being treated in this heavy handed manner. You will explain this outrage at once..."
"Oh shut up, Truman." the chairman interjected. "Shut up and sit down. I'm about to reveal something that will stun and amaze even you. Have some patience for once in your life. Okay?"
The professor, with a blustering snort, reluctantly complied.
Drawing himself up to his maximum height, the chairman squared his massive shoulders, cleared is throat, and began:
"I am Tobias Zenger, Head of the National Security Agency and interim Chief of Staff to the President of the United States of America.
"Gentlemen (pause) and Ladies (pause) I stand now before you to announce that our country's most fearfully dreaded event has now come to pass."
At once the members of the audience began to mumble among themselves in agitated tones, turning to face one another and question the meaning of what they had just heard.
"No," continued the director, "not merely the United States, but the entire world."
The speaker paused. The hubbub of the listeners grew louder.
Zenger continued: "We have been invaded. There are nearly irrefutable indications that we..."
Professor Truman Gottlieb sprang to his feet and called out, "This is an outrage. What the hell's going on? What are you trying to pull now, Toby?"
A loud knock on the door intruded upon the general confusion, followed immediately by the entrance of an immaculately groomed young man dressed in a well tailored business suit escorting a remarkably attractive woman, whom he guided to the space beside Director Zenger.
"Gentlemen and Ladies," said Tobias Zenger, "I would now like to present further proof of my allegations. Allow me to introduce one of the agency's most effective and most talented field agents, Miss Genna Greene."