frosties in a hot war (daily practice)

after Hemingway

Shaved, clean-cut, and dressed like a mallrat escaped from Zumiez, he was to keep a low profile on the train. If any civilian asked, he was a student at a small school outside Chicago on his way home for winter break to visit his high school sweetheart. For supporting evidence – but only for the really nosy and bored ones – he was given pictures of a random pretty girl taken from a series of advertisements, like those in an old JC Penny tome, the sort of thick things suburban Moms had lying around for their pubescent sons to explore lingerie section fantasies. (If you squinted or stared peripherally, he remembered, you could maybe see nipples through the bras, eyes watering, burning, until the dark circular mystery revealed itself.) He could even toss in a few country colloquialisms, “Yeah, isn’t she somethin’?,” playmaking at cross-country friendship. “Yessir, prom queen of Long Beach Island right there.”

Though about 30 and weathered by over a decade of leadership, he looked young and innocent enough to play the part of country bumpkin. To the engineers and service staff, though, he was a known and protected quantity, unknown to everyone else, mostly thick-boned midwestern types too fat to fit into airplane seats, as a potentially dangerous fugitive in an unsealed train.

I went down to 30th Street Station to retrieve him, managing to avoid any suspicious glances from the militarized police presence. There was something terribly incongruous about their steroidal armored appearance under the old-school clickclacker departure boards and tourists ambling sluggishly between Auntie Anne’s or Au Bon Pain. I didn’t see any issue with his stopping for a Frosty (who looks suspicious holding a milkshake?), except I dreaded the pressure of meaningful, or at least not completely inane, conversation waiting for it. The accused mass murderer and me, just a couple guys waiting for a frosted treat. We waited through pleasantries.

“This country can be beautiful,” he told me, finally dropping the feigned American populist accent.

“I spent evenings in Oakland staring across the Bay for hours. The perpetual autumn is conducive to thought.”

He was half-Neapolitan, reassigned to California after getting too roughed up for comfort by the Lega’s people during the Welcome Refugees! port strikes. Fascists met his publicly leaked arrival in America, his mother’s country, with counter-protests and in short order he found himself falsely fingered as the mastermind behind the 7 November Movement. It culminated in two blocks of fascists squats burning to the ground outside of San Jose. Our internal communications called the cookout “much needed social sanitation,” which didn’t go great with the Feds’ case against him. We suspected rats in the party.

On the long car ride to the Poconos, we spoke some about the future of the party, his safety and Philip Roth, who he didn’t care for; didn’t “get”: Too petty-bourgeois. “It’s Hemingway that I like.” I walked him up to the cabin where a member of the Exec would take him, my mission complete. He bid me farewell and expressed hope that we’d meet again. “Try to see Niagra on your way up,” I told him. “And maybe give I Married a Communist a chance.” He nodded skeptically and walked inside. I couldn’t have known then that I sent him straight into the rat trap, his last breaths taken shortly after my lift. The San Jose goons had links throughout Pennsylvania and they caught up with him. He was summarily handled execution style by a couple of their party imbeds.

The front page of The NY Post (“How Do You Like Me Mao!”) showed him prostrate on his back, puffy tongued skate shoes stained with blood.

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