Road To Portland: Part 21: The Allure Of A Life Of Crime

“There’s only one errand left and then we’re outta’ here.” Doogie announced to everyone’s relief.

“Billy.” Doogie beamed. “You must commit a small crime which is the alibi for the larger one we are living. Ideally, you’ll get caught for neither but the alibi I’ve planned is far less serious than what we’ve been doing.”

“Commit a crime as an alibi? Are you nuts!?!” Billy shouted.

“Suppose you’re a cop who finds a guy vandalizing a train car. Are you going to delve deeply into the situation? Would you presume a dipshit tagger is a criminal mastermind? Would you launch a six-week investigation? I postulate any sane cop will seize the idiot’s can of spray-paint, give him a ticket, and forget about it. Meanwhile NSA algorithms sniff out the ticket, pigeonhole the individual in question as a harmless loser, and in so doing explain away any anomalies.” Doogie explained this slowly, as if talking to a child.

“Then you go first!” Billy challenged. That ought to chill the nerd’s little headgame.

“Already done. How did you like the beer I got you and the bear?” Doogie chuckled.

“Yeah it was great I guess…”

Doogie counted in his head… one… two… three…

“…hey! You’re under age!” Billy realized.

“Indeed, it explains my strange activities these last few days; cell phones off, no Facebook logins, missing classes, and so on. It’s all caused by the guilt and misery inherent in my illegal purchase and consumption of a couple six packs of evil alcohol.” He rolled his eyes and made a pouty face. “Oh please, Mr. Judge, I throw myself on the mercy of the court. Don’t ruin my life over this one transgression.” Doogie said it all with the most hopeless voice he could muster. It sounded like sad puppies. It was rain falling on a cake. It was the tragedy of innocence lost.

“Dear, god!” Billy muttered. “You’re a genius!”

“Yes, yes I am.” Doogie agreed. “Now you must commit your crime of passion and stupidity. It will explain all your wanderings and erratic behavior; skipping work and whatnot. Don’t worry though, I’ve got it all planned out.”

“Continue.” Billy prompted.

“We’re heading back to your old employer, you need to be there by 5:30.” He checked his watch. “Plenty of time.”

“And…” Billy knew there was more.

“You’re going to need to buy some things on the way, take this next exit, stop at any convenience store. Use your debit card… don’t pay cash. I want this on the record.”

“What am I buying?” Billy was unsure how he felt about planting evidence on himself.

“A bag of sugar. I’ll explain later.”


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Road To Portland: Part 20: Sending Grandma Guy To His Fate

The “paperwork”, much of it sporting enticing digits preceded by a dollar sign, led Doogie to start a cottage industry in funds transfers, deposits via snail mail, and other nefarious activities… all with the squirrel’s delighted approval. Doogie planned and executed everything while the Subaru was in motion, with occasional stops to use McDonalds’ wifi or drop envelopes in unmonitored post office mail slots.

Finally, three days after it all began, they played their best card. Billy (in a crude disguise) walked five blocks to a U-Haul store, retrieved paperwork and keys from a half-baked and uninterested attendant, scrawled a signature that nobody looked at (it amused Billy to sign as “Richard Millhouse Nixon”), and drove off with a 20’ box truck. Within hours this was filled with 200 gallons of off road diesel in 4 barrels. (“Grandma Guy” had been instructed on-line to fill the truck from these barrels with the hand pump they’d included.)

Doogie liked the idea of the NSA trying to chase a truck that never got “thirsty”. Billie was delighted the off-road diesel was a tax cheat. It always felt good to cheat on taxes. “Grandma Guy” was relieved that the truck would be fueled. He had a net worth of $34 and could no more fuel the beast than he could fly. How lucky he was to find this opportunity! His pals in Detroit were in for a shock!

Doogie, was sure “Grandma Guy” would screw up the delivery and thus leave a trail of stupidity and confusion for the NSA to sort out. However, just to be absolutely certain something unwise happened, he spent more of Billy’s money (cash!) to purchase six kegs of Budweiser. They strapped the kegs in the back, covered them with a tarp, and (online of course) instructed “Grandma Guy” to never ever look under the tarp; presumably insuring he’d check there right away. Then they left the truck (with the keys in its ignition), parked outside the Beaumont Technical College where “Grandma Guy” was supposedly working on a certificate in medical transcription.

Thus, they sent their NSA decoy afloat on the currents of the universe having never personally met the man. They had no idea what would ensue, but they’d be nowhere near when it happened.

Once this was done, Doogie was noticeably more relaxed. He had not so much tied up loose ends as he’d frayed them with a shredder and set the mess on fire. Let the NSA unsort that!


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Creepy-Cute Robots

IMAO summed it up when they linked this with “Can’t Decide Whether to Hug It and Squeeze It and Call It George, or Kill It With Fire“.

As for me, every time I see one of these things I immediately want one that can handle a canoe portage. Maybe it can hunt landmines, save people from rockslides, and cure cancer but I don’t care. I want something I can hurl into the mud from my canoe that will pick up said canoe (loaded) and walk it from lake to lake. (Or maybe carry a 50# backpack for “robot assisted backpacking”?) That way I’ll be playing in the wilderness until I’m 100 years old (or dead).

Also there’s definitely overlap in the cute little machine verses skeletal dog/spider of death categories. The uncanny valley is really a thing.

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Random Thoughts

[Warning: This post is bitchy and has no point. Squirrels will ensue but not until I go through a recovery phase of Kleenex and medically necessary whiskey.]

I came back from a trip and almost immediately got sick. Damn!

Mrs. Curmudgeon claims it’s a “man cold”. (I dispute that assertion. I can and am suffering in silence. This blog post notwithstanding.) My dog claims I fell prey to “human interaction overdose”; which is always a possibility. I’m pretty sure it came from air travel.

Mostly I’m glad to be home. In no particular order my travels reminded me of the following:

  • Fuck planes! If I can’t get there in my truck I shouldn’t go.
  • It’s a fortunate occurrence when you fly commercially and get mildly sick (the alternate being an unholy hybrid of Ebola, Industrial Disease, and antibiotic resistant tuberculosis as developed in British NHS hospitals).
  • Impalas piss me off.
  • What the fuck is wrong with people?

I’ll elaborate on the last thing in the list. People are fuckin’ nuts. They’re so hyper engaged with media they’re almost a new species. Are they really that terrified of their own thoughts?

Being a bit anti-social I’ve always liked “people watching”. However, over time they increasingly act like stampeding mentally impaired Chimpanzees on crack.

There’s a cure to this. I limit my exposure to bullshit. It’s not that hard; quit Facebook, turn off the tube, go for a walk, etc… If you “unplug” from the hurly-burly you’ll notice something; life ‘aint that bad. Our media bays that it’s the dawn of the age of ultimate disaster but has anyone noticed the following:

  • President Cheeto hasn’t herded gays, poets, Muslims, or stockbrokers onto cattle cars. Everyone calm the fuck down. Especially for the folks that made Sauron’s Ring and can’t sleep at night because of it; that’s your internal issues nagging you and not the actions of the Orange Menace.
  • The lights are still on, gasoline is cheap, good beer is widely available. Huzzah!
  • Spring is nigh.
  • The DOW is soaring.
  • Every plane I flew on was delayed and uncomfortable but none plunged out of the sky in a fiery faceplant of death.
  • You can buy a Sausage McMuffin all day long.

It’s a great time to be alive. We’re living in a goddamn miracle (albeit one with germs). Yet when I wandered around a city I noticed that nobody goes anywhere unless accompanied by an electronic avatar bitching at them that life sucks. Who needs this? Why are we intent on comparing the real world (which has awesome things like boobies and bacon) to a non-existent, unattainable, hypothetical land of unicorn farts?

The airports play CNN on mute as if out of context images of some weird ass shit in some place I can’t pronounce is more important than the delay of my flight to Tuscon. Really? Fuck that!

Places what don’t run CNN’s “pretend news” instead mainline “pretend weather”. Do sentient adults act like regular weather is really the “horrific nuclear armed misery storm of the century”? When it snows in Boston do we have to step on our dick for a week in Arizona? It’s like life is too good and people need to carry around media devices that whisper in their ear “everything is horrible and right now the cat is home throwing up in your shoe”. It’s snow. Don’t fucking name it! Buy a shovel and hurl it into the ditch where it belongs.

I couldn’t quite get over it. I watched otherwise sane people stand around the CNN screen like that one scene from Close Encounters:

Travelers at Sea-Tac airport watch CNN on mute.

There’s a frantic and terrified Zeitgeist that anything is better than silence (and the horrific possibility of individual thought). Virtually nowhere urban is free of it.

When I’m dropping a deuce at the can in a hotel lobby is it really that important to pipe in ads for oddly named medical prescriptions? “Ask your doctor if Xleximar is right for you, side effects may include imploded torso and your eyeballs becoming cubical”. Let me crap in silence! Isn’t that a human right? The right to dump in peace should be one of the pillars of civil society.

Same for when I’m pumping gas. Is it really necessary to put a screen advertising Twix Bars on the fucking pump? I know what Twix Bars are. If I want one I’ll buy one. I realize Washington legalized pot but if you can’t figure out whether you do or do not have the munchies without a video screen; you shouldn’t be driving.

And for God’s sake who decided to simultaneously overlap the soundtrack for a Twix Bar ad on tinny speakers on the pump while overhead speakers are audio fluffers for the new Lexus? Listen up marketers. You get one audio track for pissing me off… two is too many. Also have you considered that pissing customers off is a fast track to insolvency. Ask Kmart. (At home there’s a gas station with ads on the pumps. I haven’t stopped there in years. I’ve got a huge tank and I drive past the obnoxious pumps every week. I buy fuel where they sell Twix Bars in silence… as God intended.)

At a bar the beer was stellar but the chimps were playing trivial pursuit… with a DJ. What the fuck? It sounded like a child’s birthday party and it interfered with the serious business of drinking. Men know how to shut the fuck up and drink in silence or quiet conversations. Nobody over 12 needs an 80 decibel DJ to entertain them. Nor could I easily ignore it. Crusty The Clown on the mike and his Happy Hipsters in the audience ruined my buzz. Also the southern tip of South America is “Tierra del Fuego” and not “Baja” you drooling morons.

Starbucks? Fuck off. Same ad laden soundtrack as everywhere else. Just serve me my coffee and get out of my face. As a fully adult human I don’t want a fuckin’ Frappuccino any more than I want a goddamn lollipop. I’m glad your forays into politics are pounding your bottom line. You shoulda’ known better. You’re just dancing monkeys, your coffee is served at the wrong temperature, and you’re about one minimum wage increase from being replaced by a big K-cup kiosk.

It was an entire trip where I bounced from place to place but was never free of assholes bitching at me from a TV, advertisements shoved in front of my eyes, or a goddamn preachy soundtrack. All the while I saw lemmings fire up a smartphone in any gap, no matter how small, in their endless audio/video stream.

Most of them, if they were forced at gunpoint to sit in silence and contemplate the rising of the sun, would hear for the first time their own thoughts. What would they hear? What’s so scary about it?

Yeah I don’t get out much.


Now I present Industrial Disease, by Dire Straits:

P.S. I rented an Impala. Brand new and more technology than the space shuttle. All that gadgetry did nothing but get between me and the road. It was like driving Windows 10 with wheels. I’d rather steer a dump truck! Here’s a song by Queen that will never ever apply to an Impala.

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Road To Portland: Part 19: When Grammar Hurts

Edna Kampsett was having a delightful on-line chat with a clever young fellow who called himself “Pedantic Man” when the FedEx truck dropped by. Ever spry despite her age, Edna scampered to the door and opened it. Thirty yards away a black bear, which had been charging toward her house, nearly turned itself inside out changing direction. Edna, quite practically, grabbed the shotgun from its rack near the door and waited. Fortunately, the bear plunged through the brush and disappeared. “I wonder if this has something to do with the beatnik in the Subaru that passed here 10 minutes ago?” She thought.

She retrieved the package, closed and locked her door, and returned to her desk. “I must go. Adieu.” She tapped to Pedantic Man. Then she switched off the chat application and retrieved her knitting scissors. The scissors were a long, delicately tapered, vicious affair with a razor sharp cutting edge. She maintained them as part of her competitive knitting equipment. Using them on baser materials such as a FedEx box was uncharacteristic but, aside from yarn, very little arrived via FedEx and she was excited. She had no idea who had sent her a package. Once the package was open, she was delighted that her unknown benefactor was aware of her love of Swedish Disco. How thoughtful!

These scissors would serve admirably in a knife fight. She thought metaphorically.

“It’s not a metaphor, it’s foreshadowing.” She spoke aloud to the empty room.

The room did not respond.

“The world is narrated by nitwits.” She muttered.

Soon she was listening to the duotone melodies of Abba from her home stereo.

“The melodies are dulcet.” She said to the empty room. Then she filled her teapot and put it on the burner.

Meanwhile, six extreme greeters bristling with weaponry, were approaching in a black helicopter. They had been chasing their tail all morning trying to keep up with a FedEx truck and someone who drove a Subaru like a rally car. It was harder than it looks. Have you ever watched FedEx drivers on a rural route? The extreme greeter’s high tech helicopter was fully equipped to track and intercept anything from terrorist convoys to foreign diplomats in armored limos, but the FedEx truck gave new meaning to “moving target”. Finally, in desperation, they’d decided to retrieve the package that remained on site due to Edna’s interruptions.

The men grinned. It was go time! They were going to use all their cool tactical shit and extreme greet the hell out of the woman and her little farmhouse.

The first indication Edna had of something amiss was a hint of tactical black through the bay window as six men stacked up behind her door in anticipation of a dynamic entry.

“Someone has stepped on my rose bush.” Edna announced in a low voice. Nobody stepped on Edna’s rose bushes!

With her teapot in one hand and her knitting scissors in the other she approached the mudroom…

…just as a small charge blasted her old but solid deadbolt and the door crashed inward. Six men in full battle rattle charged forward in a classic close quarters combat v-formation.

“You didn’t use the doorbell!” Edna announced to the point man. Then she clocked him on his right cheek with a teapot full of boiling water. It was a good blow, feet planted, swinging at the hips, nice follow through. It landed just below the man’s protective helmet and he went down.

The remainder of the team, unused to such vehement resistance paused. This would be their undoing.

“The resistance is not vehement so much as it is violent.” She announced as she jabbed the scissors neatly through a seam in the left front man’s tactical armor. “Nice stitching”, Edna thought as her competitive knitting scissors sliced through the material and underlying leg like only a precision tool applied by an expert hand could. “Weak simile.” She added.

The four remaining men, having seen the furious old woman take out two of their number backed up.

“You!” She pointed to a man with muddy boots. “Get a spade from my shed and repair what you’ve done to the roses.”

The men hesitated; confused.

“Your coming with us!” One of them growled.

“You failed to use the conjunctive. What you meant was ‘you are’.” And with that she opened the basement door.

Edna’s prized show dog was a pint-sized scotty that had been confined to the basement after an early morning accident on the carpet. The scotty had been trained not to bark (and it definitely knew better than to interrupt Edna’s enjoyment of Abba!). However, the dog was furious over being locked in the basement and was anxious to express itself. Edna pointed but the dog instinctively knew which scofflaw had made the grammatical error. In a flash, the man’s genitals were under attack. Dog and man crashed out of the damaged doorway and onto Edna’s immaculate lawn.

“Now, there are three.” Edna grinned. “Are you going to repair my rosebush or shall I bury you beneath it?”

“You ended that sentence with a preposition.” The last extreme greeter in the group said it almost by accident. It just came out! He clapped one gloved hand over a gaping mouth (the other still holding his rifle) and started to shiver.

Edna smiled. “Nicely done young man. And what is your name?”

“John.”

Edna was already turning away. Turning her back on the three remaining fully testosterone soaked extreme greeters! The Hell’s Angels wouldn’t turn their back on these men. (They knew because they’d greeted the living shit out of a roadhouse near Anaheim last week.)

One of the men brought his rifle to his shoulder.

“I can see you!” Edna spoke as she strode toward her dining room table. “I have eyes in the back of my head.”

The man lowered his rifle.

“John, you simply must join me for tea. Tell your friends to repair the rose bed and my door. They are not invited.”

Just then the little black scotty dog trotted past them. A piece of rip-stop tactical nylon was held firmly in its teeth. Was that blood? The men involuntarily moved rifles and gloved hands over their nether regions.

John was afraid to disobey. He found himself sipping herbal tea and nibbling from a plate of delicious scones. Abba was playing quietly from nearby speakers.

John heard sounds from the lawn as first aid was applied to his fallen comrades. He caught a glimpse of one, hunched in a painful fetal position, as he was loaded aboard a stretcher and winched up to their hovering helicopter.

“Third grade. Little monsters if you ask me.”

John glanced at a wall. It was festooned with class photos of smiling children, each one with Edna sitting primly on the left. The children looked perfect. Spot shined and gleaming with potential.

“The wall is adorned, not festooned.” Edna corrected.

How did she do that?!?

“It’s easy. Spend as long as I did in the trenches,” she motioned toward the photos, “and you learn or die.” She smiled. “More tea.”

It was delicious tea.

“Entry Team 4A, are you there?” John’s earbud squawked to life. Edna seemed to know John was hearing something though electronic wizardry and nodded. “Affirmative.” John replied.

“We’ve stabilized the injured. We put all uninjured team members to work on the roses and door door. Repairs will be completed in ten minutes. Get the information and make a tactical retreat.”

“Understood.”

“John,” The voice was uncharacteristically soft, “be careful.”

Edna pushed the plate of scones toward John. He took another.

John chose his words carefully. Asking Edna about the package in the politest possible manner.

Edna happily answered clearly and concisely. At John’s prompting, she described the part about the bear twice. She noted that it was not currently bear season. (Did she hunt bear? The man quivered, flyover country was a terrifying place. The thought of cute little old ladies bear hunting unnerved him. He’d felt far safer trashing a roadhouse full of bikers in California than he did at Edna’s immaculate dining table.) In the corner, the tiny scotty dog slept soundly on a cute little red bed. It still had the torn fabric in it’s mouth.

“Not ‘it’s mouth’. You meant ‘its mouth’.” Edna corrected. “The conjunction implies ‘it is’ as in ‘when a man steps on my rosebush it is on’.” She smiled, delighted to combine mind reading, a threat, and grammatical correction.

John nibbled his scone. He was starting to sweat.

Edna glanced at the grandfather clock in the hall. Nine minutes had elapsed. “The door is complete.” She announced. It was not a question.

John and Edna made their way back toward the mud room. He noticed suitable implements for improvised weapons everywhere. Who uses 11” sharpened titanium rods for knitting?

“Competitive knitting.” Edna explained, despite the fact that John had said nothing aloud.

The door was expertly repaired. Shiny new keys were positioned in a gleaming new brass lock set. The door’s splintered wood was expertly repaired; glued, sanded, and repainted. The paint was a perfect match to the rest of the door. John sighed, his team was good.

Then his heart skipped a beat. Above the section of the door that was freshly painted was a sticky note. Helpfully placed above the repaired area and properly centered, it said “wet pant”.

John was going to die.

Edna’s bony hand struck out and grabbed the paper. She eyed John. It was like looking into the eyes of death.

“No.” Edna disagreed. “Not death. Just proper English.” She handed the paper to John. Put it in his hand and closed his fingers around it. “You know what to do.”

Ten minutes later John was in the helicopter and they were flying away from Edna’s house as fast the machine would go. The in-flight debriefing went well. Edna had provided all the information they’d wanted, so long as John had asked politely. Please and thank you went a long way with Edna.

At the conclusion of the debriefing, everyone was satisfied. John surveyed the injuries. Everyone would recover. They all relaxed and sat back in their seats.

After a minute, John broached the subject of the note. “Who wrote ‘wet pant’ on the note?” He asked.

“Oh sorry, that was me.” It was Rodney, a veteran of many extreme greetings.

John grabbed him by the belt, kicked open the door, and with a smooth easy motion, tossed Rodney into the sky.

The rest of the men tensed, then relaxed. Tacitly they all agreed. Rodney “Wet Pant” Slovosfeld couldn’t spell. He deserved what he got.


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Road To Portland: Part 18: Chasing FedEx

Doogie and Billy, in a car laden with a skinny but rebounding bear and two exuberant squirrels, spent the next two days charging all over two states; chasing FedEx trucks. Doogie, who could drill through metadata like a champ, knew who was where and when. He’d ordered FedEx to drop packages (without signature) at multiple isolated rural locations; choosing houses occupied by unattended senile geezers and cat ladies who were visiting relatives (probably unfortunate relatives) in distant cities.

Shortly after each delivery, a muddy Subaru would stop for a split second a half mile away. A bear would leap from its rear door, charge through the forest, retrieve the package, and meet the Subaru at some other point.

The bear negotiated rugged terrain as only a wild animal can. Billy navigated and drove as only a libertarian desperado pizza delivery man could. Combined, they were a force to be reckoned with. Of literally dozens of packages, all but three were retrieved without a single person knowing the package (which they had no reason to expect) had arrived. It was a lightning fast type of operation and Billy had no time to assess the growing pile of packages in his trunk. He assumed it was all diabolically selected, incriminating, and weird. He hoped Doogie knew what he was doing.

Billy and the bear, choosing secrecy over retrieving objects, had lost three FedEx deliveries to homeowners that weren’t absent as planned. Total losses were two unlocked iPhones, a combined package of dogfood/sunflower seeds/freeze dried spaghetti, and a boxed set of Abba.

The first two disappeared down the memory hole. The third, noticed by Edna Kampsett, a retired elementary school English teacher, competitive knitter, and self-described grammar Nazi led to bloodshed… but Billy and Doogie never knew this. Three lost packages were acceptable losses and that was all they knew.


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Road To Portland: Part 17: Grandma Guy And The Detroit Gambit

Doogie’s dozens of purchases would be delivered to specially selected locations through a two-state region. Doogie had used the squirrel’s accounts to fund this. He hoped it would give the NSA something to chew on but not enough to catch them. During this fast and semi-random shopping spree, the Squirrels insisted on buying some CDs and more iPhones. Doogie viewed the phones with suspicion. Surely, they’d be “bugged” upon arrival, but they insisted. Since he was spending their money like a politician on crack, he could hardly complain. As for Abba; what’s the harm in music? He added those to his several Amazon and e-bay purchases (all delivered via FedEx) and shrugged off his worries.

Later in the afternoon, and from a more discrete connection, Doogie made the crowning glory of misdirection. He connected via Craigslist with a fellow who desperately wanted to get to Detroit to “visit his grandmother”. Doogie had played this perfectly. He’d reserved a U-Haul under a fifth (or was it sixth?) unrelated on-line identity (though paying with more squirrel money in the hopes that it would eventually light up someone’s detection software). He explained to “Grandma Guy” that he needed a U-Haul full of stuff driven to a specific (and randomly generated) address in Detroit. If Grandma Guy was willing to drive, he (or rather the alias of the moment) would gladly hand over the keys to the U-Haul. Doogie, explained that he wanted to drive himself but seeing as he was wheelchair bound he couldn’t and also blah blah blah. His story was as cockamamie as Grandma Guy’s. It didn’t matter. For both parties, the connection was a win.

Grandma guy elaborated that though he was recently out of prison he was turning his life around and “blah blah blah”. Doogie didn’t care. The man was obviously up to no good and U-Haul would probably never see their truck again (by which time Doogie would have canceled that specific squirrel based source of funds).

Meanwhile, Billy had returned with muddy paperwork covered in bear slobber. The contents caused both of men to pause and consider their fortunes. These levels of money were the sort that not only made dreams happen but got people killed. It clearly emanated from what they were both habitually calling “NSA hunters”. It was traceable.

Billy, always ready for a fight but reluctant to play chess with a remorseless all seeing government, wanted to walk away. This was a trap.

Doogie, confident that he was the biggest intellectual bad ass on any block, was intent on getting those funds. It would go first to the squirrels and then to themselves. Like a poker player going “all in” he added more misdirection and redoubled his ad hock money laundering activities.


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Road To Portland: Part 16: Expensive Automotive Repairs

Thousands of miles away the Analyst was seething. He was crumpling his car repair bill in his left hand and then smoothing it flat with his right. Then he’d alternate; crumpling with his right and smoothing it with his left. The goddamn mechanic was screwing him! Meanwhile this project was turning pear shaped. His finely tuned mind was feeling brittle from the combined stresses.

Watching from a hidden camera (one of dozens) the Cigarette Smoking Man was worried. He could hire analysts by the dozen but they were college educated nitwits with scarcely the brain power to chew gum and walk at the same time. He was convinced the talent pool of America was being hollowed out by… something. He didn’t know who but was working on it.

Regardless, he was currently dependent on the small but terribly sharp cadre that made up his inner circle (none of whom was aware of the other). Chief among them was the most devious, pattern recognizing, amoral, database sniffing bastard in all creation. Who was right now starting to fracture. He might lose him.

He. Might. Lose. The. Analyst!

The squirrel thing. That’s what was doing it. Someone was playing head games with his Analyst. Squirrel or not, this individual (or individuals) was either brilliant, or more likely, insane.

An icon on one of the Analyst’s many screens lit up. Dropping his paper in his lap, he hunched forward. It was go time!

The Analyst was frowning when the Cigarette Smoking Man approached silently and from the rear. “Creepy.” He muttered without turning around.

The Cigarette Smoking Man was momentarily disappointed. His top-notch slithering entrance didn’t even merit a shudder? He shook it off. “What have you found?”

“A meth head. The squirrels are working with a meth head.”

“And you know this because…”

“Because I have a list of every meth head in America. This guy’s on the list.”

He had a list? A list of every methamphetamine addict in the US? How’d he do that? The Cigarette Smoking Man was shocked to encounter a level of sneakiness and privacy violation in which he wasn’t actively participating.

“So, let’s kill them on the spot?” The Cigarette Smoking Man proposed.

“No, it’s a ploy.”

“You’re sure?”

“No doubt about it. Meth heads can’t comprehend Abba. It’s misdirection.” He scanned lists of purchases. Some looked like tantalizing clues, others looked random. Something wasn’t right.

The Cigarette Smoking Man eyed a satellite photo of the trailer park on one of the screens. “Burn the park down?” He offered hopefully. He was worried about his Analyst and desperate for an idea to cheer him up.

The icon went dark. The connection was severed. Whatever was going on had ceased. It had been a very short time to execute so many transactions. “No. Leave him there. Maybe our squirrels will return again. Perhaps next time they’ll trip up. Let them think they were undetected.” He sighed sadly.

“There’s nothing I can do at this juncture?”

The Analyst shook his head and then brightened. He handed the crumpled bill to the Cigarette Smoking Man. “Here.”

“Kill him? Burn the business to the ground? What do you want?”

“Whatever. Just get my car back and…” He paused. What did he want? Was it asymmetrical to unleash the full fury of government backed evil upon a mechanic who was probably more incompetent than criminal? Yes, it was. He tapped his fingers on the table; thinking. Finally he decided. $1150 for front brakes? The guy had it coming.

“Just get my car back.” He hissed.

The Cigarette Smoking Man was relieved. Something to do. Waiting was always the hardest. He strode out the door, closing it behind him.

As soon as he was out of earshot he dialed one of his phones. “Wind up the chopper. I need three ‘extreme greeters’ sent to Paul’s Chrysler.”


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Road To Portland: Part 15: It’s Not Hunting Season

The Curmudgeon, for no logical reason, was sitting in a tree with a rifle and drinking coffee. He had a Kindle was reading Little House on the Prairie. It was a good book. One of his favorites. He made time to read it every few years. Why he read it while in a tree is anyone’s guess.

From a considerable distance, he spied a Subaru. He knew everyone on this road and all adjacent roads. This was an interloper car. He reached into his pack and grabbed his binoculars.

To his surprise, a bear leapt out and charged through the underbrush. It was mid-winter, shouldn’t bears should be hibernating? Oddly, he ignored the Subaru. The brand of vehicle bears drove (or were chauffeured about in) was not his business. (The Curmudgeon took his libertarian disinterest in others to extremes.)

The bear crossed into his land and the Curmudgeon raised his rifle. Then he checked the calendar on his watch. Bear season was long over. Shit!

The bear rushed into the crater, grabbed the papers, and ran off to the west. It never saw him.

Apparently the secret demonic forces of the NSA (or whomever) had trained bears? He shrugged, and returned to his book. Pa was stuck in a blizzard and shit was getting real. This was one of the best parts of the story!

In the meantime, Doogie hiked with the squirrels to a nearby trailer park (with the squirrels providing advance scouting). Doogie, who was smart but naïve, assumed the trailer park would be largely deserted because “everyone would be at work”. The squirrel’s scouting informed him otherwise. (Later Billy got a huge laugh from Doogie’s “everyone is at work” idea. The squirrels, steeped in the internet as they were, didn’t know what a “job” was. The bear ignored all parties and scratched his ass.)

Fortunately, nobody notices squirrels. With their expert guidance, Doogie slithered undetected to a vantage point between a wrecked car, an abandoned refrigerator, and a collapsed shed. From there he detected three different wifi antennae.

Doogie noticed one that showed the signs of an entrepreneurial would be chemist (a.k.a. a meth-cooking meathead). Doogie latched onto it based on the reasoning that the more potential “leads” the NSA could sniff out, the less they’d be likely to delve further and find him.


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Road To Portland: Part 14: Multi-dimensional Invisible Chess

To say the time after Billy’s relaxing breakfast of beer had been a whirlwind was an understatement. As soon as Doogie had negotiated an agreement with the squirrels he swung into action; issuing endless and confusing orders to everyone present.

The deal was that Doogie would provide “protection from NSA hunters, transport to Portland or vicinity, and setup a safe haven for squirrels”. Billy wasn’t happy with the unspoken assumption that he was part of a package deal. He also noted that nobody mentioned “safe haven for bears”.

But Doogie assured him that the payout, while currently unquantified, would be “more than sufficient to make you very happy for a long time”. Billy hated to admit it but it Doogie was already firmly in charge. Billy was at best a supporting character in Doogie’s internal monologue. Billy shrugged and reminded himself that had called in the genius and it wasn’t as if he didn’t know Doogie was… “off”. “Off” meant that he could negotiate with squirrels and a lot of other things but it also meant he was socially unaware enough to boss Billy around in his own Subaru; which for most people would get them a smack to the head and a long walk.

Doogie had launched a multi-dimension invisible chess game with NSA “hunters” who may (or may not!) exist. Having been demoted to mammalian game pieces, Billy, squirrels, and bear alike did countless seemingly illogical things in rapid succession. Billy understood his bright friend was leaving a trail of evidence so convoluted that the NSA, should it actually be watching, would be hopelessly mired. The bear simply concluded that humans were strange freaks and left it at that. Billy saw the bear’s explanation as nearly as well supported by evidence as Doogie’s paranoid mind games. Then again how many rural homesteads have their wifi jacked by squirrels and subsequently experience a missile strike?

By mid-morning, Billy was dispatched to deliver the bear a short distance from the sight of the strike and quickly drive off. He would pick up the bear at a designated rendezvous point later. The bear was instructed to retrieve “papers” that the squirrels reported the unhinged homesteader had flung into the crater. All agreed that no human should risk retrieving them. Billy, who was apparently the kindest creature in this little endeavor, worried about the bear. With Doogie’s very reluctant concurrence, he risked an internet search just long enough to verify that bear hunting season was over. If the bear wound up dead, it was poached and not hunted… though it would hardly matter to the bear. The bear, with characteristic woodland nihilism, promised he’d be stealthy and simply assumed if he was seen it would be by NSA hunters and he’d be shot on sight.


If you think “NSA hunters” would be a great name for an outlaw country band, feel free to click below:

tipjar

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