Saturday, October 6, 2007

You're going to get hit

Billy's letter

Dear Mark,

I know it doesn't matter to you, well... not anymore but Lanna won't make it. She's been sulking for a long time. She's almost as upset as when that old basset hound of hers, Ricardo died. She cried the first two days, then fell back into her work. Sewing, setting the print for the paper, cleaning the house, doing all the things that she normally does. Her tasks are dominated with a despondent air. She could make charcoal look like a light bulb her soul seems so dark. Of course she won't talk about things. I'm sure she'll stop by at some point to pay her respects. Maybe one day while walking the dogs.

As for me, well these things happen. They've happened before. They will happen again. Did I ever tell you about my boyhood pal, Micky? Micky and I would go stealing apples from the nearby orchard, candy from the store, we would nick his old man's girlie magazines. When we were twelve Micky and I went to the waterfront late at night. The wharf was deserted except for the boats that bobbed on the ocean water. He bravely pronounced that he could touch the anchor of one of the boats. He shrugged off his shirt and dove in. As he was coming up his head smacked the edge of one of the boats. The impact cracked his head open. I dove in and dragged him ashore. He wasn't breathing by the time I had gotten someone to help.

You lose friends. They die. At some point I'll die. A few people will mourn my death. I thought you'd be one of them.

I've been trying to keep myself busy. We're still putting out the paper, of course. We've recently got a few Italians to lend some help with the writing. Much of it is poetic calls to action. Destroy the State, The priests must rot, hack up the bureaucrats, and do it now! That's what it comes down to. Its beautiful though. My own writing is coming along. The newest addition of the paper will have a central article by me about capitalism. The essay depicts the changing structure of the economy. Capitalism has come a long way since the feudal mercantilism of the medieval days. Its international, and with the expansion of railroads, its becoming even easier to ship goods all over. Adam Smith would be happy, you can be sure that I am not.

This is a weak letter. Its filled with mundane things about my life. I find it hard to say something relevant. Do I write about my memories of you? Do I write about our first meeting in the gym halls? I was too old to be a boxer but loved the action. You were so awful when you came in. Your persistence paid though. Laughing our comrades would compare you to the Mexican in Jack London's short story. You did donate a little of your purse, not that much but enough to make us all laugh.

Its hard for me to figure out what to write. We'll write up an obituary for you in the paper. Perhaps something a little more thrilling. "Comrade Gunned Down by Faciscts," "Slaughtered by the State," something less saddening and disappointing than the actual events.

I'll put this in as we put the dirt in on top of you.

Billy Boke

Jimmy's Speech

"Looking out, I see a sea of black," Jimmy shuffled from one foot to another. He was a little nervous in front of the funeral crowd. He had presented academic papers in front of larger groups but this was more daunting. His words seemed more important, more final.

"Marc would appreciate your presence. I will start from the beginning. Marc and I grew up in a rural town north of here. We spent most of our boyhoods herding cows, birthing calves, milking cows, and slaughtering cows. On our days off our pious parents would bring us to the local church for moralistic diatribes from the preacher. Those days were tiresome additions to the daily sermons we got from the old man. As we hit the years where every boy thinks he is much more man than boy and most men think he is more boy than man, Marc began his troublesome career. He began to steal some of the milk and cheese. He stole little bits of the market money. He would drink the moonshine that our father brewed. He would get into fights with other local boys. To say that I was an innocent during these days would be ignoring the horns on my head but my involvement wasn't as outrageous. He was arrested a few times. My mother wept and went to the priest. When the priest spoke to Marc, Marc spat in his face. That night Marc and our father got into a brawl. Our father is a much larger man but Marc had a fire in him, perhaps it was some of the moonshine.

The next time he was arrested he was sent to a boys reformatory in the city. While Marc may have acted the street tough he was still intelligent. He could read, and write more than competently as was evidenced in his weekly letters home to me. His letters during his stay were formulaic.
'Dear Jimmy,
Things here are okay. This week only one black eye. From one of the guards not another one of the boys. My fist went deep into the depths of his belly despite his girdle. I've been bored though as they've kept me segregated. They've disallowed me books, and the small privileges afforded to those of us lucky enough to be society's outcasts. Most of the other boys are from poverty and are meek, petty thugs.... I am engulfed in ennui...'

So his letters went. His daily interactions in the reformatory were a condemnation of the Bastille of boredom. I never have fully agreed with Marc's politics, nor have I fully disagreed. I've always been empathetic though. When you live so close to someone that happens. No matter how strongly you may disagree with them you still see them as human. They are still your brothers, your sisters, your cousins, lovers, neighbors, they still retain that human connection.

His departure from the reformatory also marked a departure from our home town. No longer would he milk cows, attend church, honor and obey our parents. He moved towards the city where he could survive. The next few years were spent avoiding the law and engaging in petty criminal activities. In hindsight his earlier activity foreshadowed this later activity. The scale merely increased. Along came the scaled repercussions. He spent more time in prison.

There he might others who called themselves Anarchists. Women and men who rejected God, the State, Capital. Men who sought the violent overthrow of the reign of things. It was the anarchists who would influence him the most during his later years. The years that most of you know him from. After his last stint in prison he went to work as a bricklayer. One of the Italian Anarchists had helped him gain the job.

He worked for a while as a bricklayer but was let go after he failed to show to work one night. That was the night after his first bout. Believing in the armed overthrow of the state Marc went out to train as a boxer. He was too poor to buy a firearm so he had to create his own guns. His first bout was a disaster. He danced around the ring. His opponent moved in flailing. Marc was caught with a right cross to the face that not only broke his nose but knocked him out. When he finally came to in the dressing room he asked for a bottle of whiskey. He drank half the bottle of whiskey and said that next time he would; "get that son of a bitch."

He refused to work a regular gig after that fight. He stayed on my floor. He slept when he could, ate when he could, and trained all the rest of the time. I'd never seen him so possessed. He'd rise early in the morning and run then would go to the boxing gym. He'd spend several hours there, come home, eat all my stores of food, sleep, then go back to the gym. When he came back in the evening he would gush about his failures.

"Today I was working my jab. I butterfly it too much Jimmy. You can see it coming a mile away. I don't shoot it straight out, I bring it out.... Agh, my infighting is awful. One good shot to my skinny rail of a body and its 7,8,9,10. Ah Jimmy what am I gonna do? For every little thing I do right, there are a million things I do wrong, wrong, wrong."

Despite his hours of training and picking up the occasional dock work to keep himself fed, Marc was still social. He was a lively participant in the local anarchist group. I've never attended those meetings, as I stated before I'm empathetic but not in agreement with Marc's anarchist views. All the same he would pour fourth with the same amount of zeal about the discussions that went on there.

"Fucking Sasha, both Audrey and I agree. You can't allow the market into a post revolutionary society. Albeit planning out a future society is like attempting to count the clouds in tomorrow's sky, but one thing I know if we exchange goods, if we engage in even the most petty of mercantilism, the beast of capital will rise again. Bah! The future economy must be one based on the gift."

Marc's amateur boxing career didn't go far, mainly due to his untimely demise. His career record was 9-1-3. He knocked out five opponents with his right cross.

The last time I saw Marc was the evening before he died. He came in with a worn face. He said little. He read for a while then went to bed. After putting in hours at the gym Marc was hit by a bus on his walk home. He was killed on impact.

Thank you all for coming. If you'd like to say anything you have five minutes each. Please come forward according to your seating placement."

Slipping in the back

She slid into a chair in the back. She had dressed with care, although her garments were a size too large for her. The clothing that she was able to procure was from her over sized cousin. She didn't have a large stock of black clothing on hand. How many people died so young?
As she sat in the back she was overcome with guilt and emotion. She hoped that she wouldn't be recognized but had decided to attend the funeral out of obligation. Her love for Marc was not in doubt. What she did with that love was circumspect.

Marc had met her in the small cafe down the street from the gym. He'd come in occasionally after the gym covered in sweat and would eat an enormous amount of food. After a month or two of coy smiles and ever so slight "accidental" brushing of hands Marc had suggested that he walk her home.

She lived about four miles from the cafe. Normally she would take a local to get home and back. It was a pleasant October evening though and so they walked. They walked down by the water, chatting nonchalantly. Discussing nothing of importance but the flower of youthful desire grew.

Marc began to walk her home nearly every evening after her shift had ended. She could remember the first time they had kissed. It was on a bench by the ocean water.
"My mother can recognize the stars. I can't," she had said.
"I think, I think that's the milky way there," Marc mentioned as he pointed to a white streak in the sky.
"My mother used to be able to locate the big dipper, and then from there would be able to tell me about all the different constellations."
"Uh, I think that might be the big dipper."
They had fallen into silence. The light crashing of waves on the shore seemed to speak for them. She put her head on his shoulder. He put his on top of hers. He had inhaled her scent. He took his arm and put it around her. She looked to him and they had kissed. It was the first of many.

Marc's life had taken a sudden change when he found out that she was engaged to be married. She was engaged to a middle class merchant down the street from the cafe. Marc had seen the man before. Suited, bearded, and walking like a flaneur. Marc had dismissed him as exactly the sort of mediocre filth that an adequate revolution would take care of.

She had never told him of the engagement. When Marc confronted her about the news she meekly lied. Marc nodded slowly. He hugged her and walked out of the cafe where they had met to talk.

Marc showed up for the gym that day. He boxed no better, no worse, than any other day. The trainers had noted nothing distinctive. After his work out was done Marc walked past the cafe. He came to the corner of the intersection and strode across. He didn't bother to look either way as he crossed the street.

At the funeral she cried for the young Werther.

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