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Key words: Nuclear fantasy. Landscape designer. Environment. Rwanda.









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Nuclear Recyclings
Safe Song

Nuclear Recyclings.
by John Young

Two of us sappers were brought back from a black-nasty op to recover from infected wounds, and after getting physically cured and psychologically unstable, were selected for resteasy service snooping on workers disassembling nuclear warheads at Pantex -- which I knew as a teenager was a short pickup spin above Amarillo.

A gang of us used to freak the hotshit guards by roaring past their perimeter stations and throwing water bombs at the huts, kabooming the shit out the trigger-happy fuckers. They'd tear out to their vans and try to catch us, and unable to catch our souped-trucks, would radio in the choppers who'd spotlight us back to Amarillo and city cops waiting to escort us home to wild-eyed parents freaking like the guards. All our Dads and single Moms worked at the plant and feared losing the easy money making megadeath.

My buddy Jim, from tree-swathed hilly Philly, hated the shiny plant, its treeless site reminded him of Iraq, he said, where he'd been trapped for four days alone due to a fucked mission to C4 a plutonium lab. He dug himself into the sand to survive, gasping air through a plastic tube, 120-degree days, roasting like a potato, coming out at night to eat, sending short-burst rescue signals, praying the choppers could find him, which they did, coming in below radar while F-16s blasted the Allah out of sacred shrines for diversion. Jim's CO said it cost a hell of a lot more to save him than it would have to pay off his grieving parents, kidded him that they had to raid the general's liquor kitty to buy the pissant Air Force airshow.

More than the plant, though, Jim hated the nuclear workers, well, not all of them, just the head-up-ass supervisors who spied to catch workers taking a break, hustled their nuts in front of the women and screamed egg-rot breath at anyone sassing.

Posing as trainees, we shifted from job to job for experience, and observed the entire operation -- clean as a day-nurse, nobody dozing, perfectly safe, except for hellish disruption caused by the evil-hearted supervisors who were the same in all departments, boar-tit useless, using the pretense of safetychecking to unnerve every steady hand on the murder-machines.

Within a week Jim and me had decided it was vital for national security to waste the whole supervisory apparatus, believing that shit's got to cease or some decent family breadwinner's going to explode from the pressure, maybe even ignite one of the armageddon gadgets -- a high plains Texan gone way-out nuts about righteous slaughter, not your garden variety serial-killer psychopath, but a primly Baptist eager to truly rain hell on sonofabitch heaven to demonstrate the Bible's swift sword.

So we set out to evaporate the lard-asses, a synchronized atomization, as though they had all been sucked up by UFO, poof, they're gone.

Shit, the whole place was loaded with all sizes of warheads, from goodbye-Gomorrah to baby-jesus backpack. One of the littlest tots would whirlwind our targets to hotshot nirvana.

Jim proposed a swim at the lake to lure the hotheads away from the main compound. We intended to set off the underwater device remotely while the beer-bloaters floated. The hole of the lake had been made by a test of an atomic mine gone awry, so we figured the big guys would think one of the gadgets had been left behind, a military-grade lost-track, lay there waiting for orders, then was kicked to acoustic attention by the splashing boobs.

So that was what we arranged. Big-time sapping the enemy.

Medal of Honor, yessir, pin right here.

The day came, the pigs drank and swam, and we pushed the two fail-safe buttons from a mile away: nothing happened. The pigs went on floating on their backs, barbequing in the sizzling sun, cans of Bud on their mountainous guts. We jabbed the wireless controller, knocked it against a rock, cursed dud technology, hurled it into the desert.

Ten minutes later The Beast exploded as we walked back to base, scaring the holy shit -- real involuntary gobs of feces -- out of us with its flash and roar, flattening us with the first shock wave, then tumbling us with unending ripples across the plains like tumbleweed for half a mile, and blowing siding and roofs off Pantex buildings, exposing their naked skeletons as far as we could see.

Jim and me, scraped raw, sat up to look at the great roiling cloud, and he said we got to get out of this duty, this is the worst fuckup ever. Who'd of thought that black op would succeed, none of the others did, we got medals to make sure of that.

I'm pretty sure HQ ain't gonna like this, John, but what the hell, whose to hold us responsible, we're just figments of The Pentagon's G-2 nuclear fantasy.

Safe Song.
by John Young

Anne's stoned face did not alter throughout dinner in honor of her return from "Eden" as Dan delicately put it in phoning around on short notice to beg our attendance.

He said he spotted Anne marching down Elm, went to welcome her home and was stunned by her stare and rigid posture. At once he decided to gather her friends to learn the truth of why she disappeared abruptly, then reappeared without notice, never once contacting any of us during a year.

Anne, who had always laughed at life's terrors, who solaced doting parents fearful of their children's harm, advising their making of love-giving homes.

Anne, the beautiful, intelligent, mother of four adorable children, the president of the school board, the town's favorite landscape designer, the devoted wife of James Williams who served with Environmentalists Without Borders, to whom she flew off to love when he momentarily rested in safe haven from never ending global war against environmental degradation, exploitation and overdevelopment.

When she abruptly left we initially assumed that it was in response to another signal from James to hurry to him. But in this instance she did not return in a week or so as before, nor did she ask any of us to take in the children. She would never have taken them into danger, for James forbade it, and that was their solemn parental vow. As it was our vow to Anne and James to ease their burden by caring for their offspring, by reassuring the youngsters that their parents were safe. This time the children had vanished with her.

After a month we sealed the Williams's home and one of us checked it weekly as the months passed.

At our welcome-home dinner Anne was dressed meticulously, sat erect and carefully ate but would not speak. From time to time she paused eating, face one of us with a pleading look, her mouth trembling to articulate a message. After a moment she would shake her head, clamp lips tight, stiffen her neck to face forward and stare distantly, fork poised in mid-arc. She could not speak.

We made conversation as best we could to set her at ease, to bring her home from where she was staring, from what landscapes she was seeing. Where were her children, where was James, what had happened over a year? Questions we could bare only to ask each other, could not dare to ask Anne in fear of what she might disclose.

We concluded dinner and Dan and Anne left, he to escort her home to the empty nest on Elm. We had agreed to await his return to learn if she revealed to him the cause of her silence. We waited hours but he did not return. Our calls to her home and his were not answered.

The next day and the day thereafter we attempted to reach Anne and Dan by telephone and by visits to their homes but they could not be located.

Dan telephoned each of us on the third day to summon us to his home. There, over fruitdrinks, Dan, gaunt and hollow-eyed, told us that after our dinner on the way to her home Anne had commenced to murmur, very softly . Then he grasped that she was singing a child's song, a joyful one that we knew each of her children had been taught to sing to put away fear. She sang softly for a while, Dan said, then began to cry and shake, then to moan horribly, inhumanly, tearing at her skin and hair, powerfully beating the interior of the car, bloodying her knuckles, bashing her head.

Dan said he pulled over and attempted to console her. But Anne leaped from the vehicle and ran into the night, imploring God to end her agony. Dan said he waited, distraught, unsure whether to pursue her, not certain how to do so in the darkness.

She returned to awaken him at dawn, apologized for her misbehavior and asked to be driven home. Dan did so and there Anne said she must tell him the tragedy that befell her family but could not do so in the household reminder of her unbearable loss. She asked for him to go with her to the lake-side compound our group shared.

There, Dan told us tearfully, Anne disclosed over two days -- often collapsing, or going rigid, or screaming in rage -- the events of the terrifying year beginning with a long-distance call from James' captors in Rwanda.

The caller ordered her to immediately gather her children and fly to Rwanda. James would be killed in a week if she failed to comply. And to notify no one.

James was put on the phone and he croaked "don't. I love you," then the phone disconnected.

Anne telephoned the Kigali office of Environmentalists Without Boundaries which confirmed that James had gone to Rwanda and had not been heard from since he set off for a meeting with agriculturalists in the main refugee camp three days before.

The Kigali director came on line to softly tell Anne that James' vehicle been located. James was presumed alive and captured by a roving band to be held for ransom, "as with three predecessors, all of whom had been rescued, don't worry, Anne, we'll do what must be done to save him."

Anne waited by the telephone for a day, then received another call from James's captors. A voice said, "we know you called Kigali, now come immediately. Here's your husband for the final time."

Anne heard James moaning their children's song of safety.

She quickly packed and arranged a flight for the five of them to Kigali. There, she put the children in a hotel and went to the office of Environmentalists Without Borders where she asked for a private meeting with the director and reported the captors' calls. The director was appalled, said nothing like this had ever happened, that usually the bandits accepted a few hundred dollars and released the captive. "Anne, what do wish us to do?"

Anne said she wanted transportation to the camp, that there she would spread word that she wanted to meet with James's captors. And asked the director to see that the children were protected during her absence. The director agreed, warning Anne that she must be extremely careful, that this group is not the ordinary peasants.

Dan paused to say that Anne had been calm in telling the story to this point, crying only when she spoke of James's distant voice. That she hesitated before continuing, warning Dan that she might not be able to keep control as she recalled what happened after the camp. Dan suggested she rest, sleep and begin again the next day.

Anne said, "No this must be told without stopping or I'll never do it, will be unable to tell, will bury the memories so deep they'll never surface in public. If I cannot disgorge these horrors I shall become mute, shall cease communicating with people forever."

Dan cautioned us, you must prepare yourself for what she related. It will scar your faith in humanity.

Anne had been in the camps for two weeks asking leaders to send word to the captors that she wished to meet their demands whatever they were. She spoke by satellite phone to her children each evening.

One evening when she called, the hotel operator said the children had departed with a travel representative to join their parents in Kampala for a trip to Lake Victoria. The agent had shown the children a note from their father, a message with the familiar words of the children's safe-song.

Anne stared at the phone in horror, screamed, then fainted.

When she awoke in the camp hospital a nurse said there's someone to see you. A slender man approached, bowed, politely introduced himself as an agronomist and would take her to James's and the children's captors, saying softly, "please, Mrs. Williams, come with me."

They traveled by car ten hours over rough roads to a small encampment. There Anne was taken to a hut and told to wait. Shortly, her youngest child entered and rushed toward Anne, crying uncontrollably.

The child was clothed in filthy rags and covered with abrasions and dried blood. One eye was swollen and nearly closed. Two teeth were gone. An arm hung limp, right hand crudely bandaged, a finger stub horribly protruding.

After stroking the child, whispering assurances, Anne coaxed a response to her urgent queries of the family: "Oh, Mother, they've hurt Daddy terribly, they're hurting the others. Please, oh please, Mother, why are they doing this, oh please make them to stop."

Dan could not go on. All of us were crying. We could not bear hearing him, yet we had to share Anne's pain. We knelt, held hands and prayed, asked God to give Dan and us the courage to endure the telling.

Dan said Anne struggled to remain sane in the face of what her child told her, what she saw in the child's condition, what she dreaded to learn.

She and the child were taken to a larger structure in which James and the three children were arrayed.

It was an abattoir, an indescribable scene of torture of naked spread bodies. James and the children were surrounded by apron-smocked men with butcher tools who chanted and danced, ceremoniously raking razored edges through unconscious flesh. The awful carnage was being filmed.

Anne clasped her child, gagged, fell to her knees and attempted to crawl toward the sacrificial victims. She was blocked by the agronomist escort from the camp, who said, "there's nothing you can do to end it. Once begun it cannot be stopped. Save yourself and the child. They wanted you in the film, to dramatize the gravity of their cause, the authentic depravity of 'miseducated savages.'

Now, please, come with me."

He took the child and led Anne from the slaughter house. The three went into the countryside, the man explaining to others they passed that he had been ordered to imprison the woman and child until the completion of the filming. That he would return after having secured the hostages.

But he did not return. He led Anne, carried the child, took them far beyond the ring of huts, walked them for miles and miles, far into the bush, deep into northern Rwanda and beyond its border into Uganda, his homeland.

Dan said that Anne described the year of captivity as a time of insensible grieving. She and the child gradually regained their senses under the man's ministrations. There Anne and the child lived with the polite agronomist for the year, as his charges, his domesticates.

He told Anne that he had known James, had served as James' assistant in Kigali. He confessed of telling the Rwandan agriculturalists of James's coming to the camps to arrange their replacement by Environmentalists Without Borders, by scientists who treated them like inferior savages squandering the environmental heritage.

The man said he would release Anne and the child if she forgave his treachery and promised to never tell of it. Anne said she struggled to forgive the polite man his betrayal, to promise silence, but she could not.

It was only upon the death of the child from food poisoning that Anne was freed by the polite man, taken by him back across Rwanda to the camp of first meeting.

Anne told Dan that she knew not what to do except to return to America, to the empty house on Elm, in forlorn search for the heritage of her lost family. She found nothing there, she recognized nothing of the love-giving home. She could not see, she said, she was blind and without feeling. The James's house of dreams, their life-affirming neighborhood and global-rescue landscape, were located in a far distant land, pale scenes of a humane world once faithfully believed and now barely remembered.

That the hellish environment in which she now suffered beyond earthly pain was the blood-smeared slaughter house of Rwanda, the unspeakable vision to which she cannot close her forever staring eyes, her forever unblinkable lids.

Dan concluded: I drove Anne to the Elm Street house, where, once she entered, she became absolutely silent, marched rigidly from bedroom to bedroom, stared vacantly at the once-loved embellishments of loved ones. She did not speak to me again. I think she will never speak again. She huddles there now moaning the safe-song.


Web Architecture Magazine, Issue 02. All rights reserved