My pet theory about the ‘60s is that there’s a sinister plot behind it. . . . The lessons learned in the ‘60s about merchandising stupidity to the American public, on a large scale, have been used over and over again since that time. —Frank Zappa, 1986 MTV interview (audio clip included on disc 2 of The MOFO Project/Object, © 2006 Zappa Records)
BRAINFIELD (CNS)—Etta could be smart, but she was a drunk and pot addict. Most of the tough cookies usually are. But Etta was neither tough nor a cookie. She was just a drunk who was dependent on marijuana, wandering around with a smartphone, an empty bottle of peach schnapps, an e-cig (with menthol-Oreo® flavored juice), an iMatey® double-dip e-dildo and a prescription vial of Substance Me® in her fanny pack.
The pills dulled her but the hangovers killed her. Mixing the booze and the pills was dumb and she knew she should probably stop and go “straight edge.” But just thinking about that hurt, it seemed a super-excruciating form of boring (although she completely respected those who went “straight edge”—the ones who honestly managed to do it—and although she felt obligated to question use of the word “straight,” but whatever).
No, it wasn’t easy. Nothing ever is—nothing.
And Etta increasingly disliked men. She’d probably never liked them, really, but it seemed to have gotten worse in recent years. The evidence showed men had always been bad. Just look at Picasso—just look at Céline and Hemingway—just look at that wicked anti-Semite Martin Luther—Jesus, just look at sleazy, womanizing Martin Luther King, Jr.—just look at Etta’s father, brothers, uncles and grandfathers.
But now men were really getting worse—just look at poor fascist Morrissey (oh, how the mighty have fallen!). And the most vile and evil Trump, and wicked Weinstein, sick Kevin Spacey, depraved Jeffrey Epstein, shameful rapist Eddie Clinton and a couple billion in between. Jesus. Allahu Akbar. Bad, bad men, everywhere you looked. Had the world always been like this? Huh, had it? Yes.
Obama, thought Etta, probably really was different. A nice, well-spoken man who wouldn’t harm a fly—not like the others. Why couldn’t there be more like Barack Obama? (Although, Etta had to admit, Obama had screwed up healthcare reform. Everyone she knew was paying more for less coverage, and hospitals were such shitty overpriced places these days. Look what had happened to her mother—broke and on her deathbed. But still, Obamacare was a good thing. Wasn’t it? Better than before, at least. Well, maybe not completely—mother hadn’t deserved to wind up a drugged-up, incoherent zombie, dying at age 62. But still, it was a good thing. Or at least Obama had really meant well—he certainly wasn’t the type to sell out to lobbyists and rip off people, no way, not him—and if it got screwed up, he probably had nothing to do with it. It was all those other corrupt guys in Washington, obviously. And that had to count for something.)
Etta especially didn’t like how men tried to push everyone around with their crap. That’s what men did: push their idiotic crap everywhere they went. And it was such stupid crap! Do what I say, not what I do! Let’s smoke this pot, come on, let me roll you a joint! Sure, I support abortion rights—but I’m against it ever happening! The best world would be where abortions are legal, but no woman ever needs to get one! Oh no, you’re pregnant? I’ll support you getting an abortion, I support a woman’s right (as if men could give women rights!). Hey, look at this computer game I’m playing, look, I’m playing someone on the other side of the internet! Maybe it’s a bot! Maybe it’s an eight-year-old Japanese girl! Hey, look at this great porn I’m looking at! No, but it’s feminist porn, really, it’s so hot! Those guys really care about that woman’s pleasure, oh yes they do! Look at the size of their cocks! Oh look, more girls showed up! Look, they go both ways!
Jesus, such toxic, binary shit. Males had a toxic, binary culture, no way around it. And men lied. They constantly lied about everything—to each other and to women and to those who couldn’t decide if they were a man or a woman (and so what if a person wanted to be non-binary? It was their human right—Jesus, wasn’t it an advance on all of human history to this point?! Why do you have such a problem with it? Why are you so obsessed about it? Why can’t you let people be who they say they are? He/she/they—what’s the difference? Who cares if somebody’s a shemale? What—are you in denial about your gayness? Why do you always have to see things through the lens of the binary patriarchic models, which exist only to exploit, rob, kill and rape? Aren’t you seeing a psychologist yet? Why not?)
And men’s toxic, binary fascism. Jesus, men loved fascism even more than women (and those who were still figuring out which sex they wanted to be, or if they wanted to be neither, or if they wanted to be somewhere between a man and a woman—and so what if they did? That’s freedom for you. Why do you have such a problem with it?). It was, like, the only thing self-identifying men loved: The fascists in their fancy suits, knee boots and leather caps, marching around with a bullwhip stuck in their asses, chanting about killing Jews and blacks and trannies and women. God, it was gross.
Jesus, wasn’t it men who loved the right-wing rapist politicians of the right wing? Wasn’t it the abominable men who sold to the most bloodthirsty dictators around the world, the ones who set up concentration camps and constantly sexually assaulted women? Like Trump! Allahu Akbar, why do you think this world is so screwed up? Wasn’t it men who were always contributing to global warming with their cars and airplanes and spews of cancerous waste and nuclear leaks and oil spills? And men who were shutting down perfectly good factories and sending jobs to the fake “communist” China where they could pay the gooks two cents to work on all day on their crappy products? (Nothing against the suffering Chinese people and the brilliant Chinese sculptures, the little tofu soldiers—the Chinese were victims of the boot of colonialism almost more than anybody, but whatever).
No, the truth couldn’t be denied: Men sat there and did nothing as the fascists and anti-black and anti-Islamic racists ran wild on the internet. Jesus, why did they hate the poor Muslims so much, they who had suffered for centuries under the boot of colonialism, mostly from France, Britain, Germany and the U.S.A.? Etta didn’t like how the Muslims didn’t let women drive cars and made them wear veils at all times, but Allahu Akbar—duh, maybe that was how those women liked it?
Anyway, Jesus, it wasn’t the West’s business—why couldn’t the Western men stop interfering in other countries, even the bad ones! Terrorism? Hah! That was a big, freaking, unfunny joke. But anyway, the West deserved all those bombings and shootings—Jesus, who’s been invading the sacred Islamic lands for all these hundreds of years?! Besides, everybody knew Israel did 9/11 to control America even more—Muslims, my ass! But nobody could ever say it because everyone was afraid to be anti-Jewish—except for the fascists and racists that were everywhere, they were always saying the anti-Jew stuff, but whatever. And why hadn’t those racists and anti-Semites been banned or de-platformed yet?
Disgusting, just disgusting! Ugly and atrocious. Jesus, thought Etta, it was time to de-platform everybody! This stuff was going too far. Kick them all of the internet! Everyone, now! It’s not so-called “censorship” because the government’s not doing it—it’s private business! Capitalism is a rapacious, toxic, binary, dehumanizing system—but the monopolies can kick off whoever they want because that’s the free market they love so much!
And corporate censorship is a complete evil—but Jesus, some people should be censored! Yes, there’s idealism—and then there’s the right thing to do! It’s called “realism.” Come on, there’s a limit to how much vile toxic Nazi bullshit we have to take! Somebody’s got to draw a line! And while you’re at it, take down all of those Confederate military statues, all of them, immediately! Jesus, while you’re at it just take down all military statues, everywhere, especially the ones of the generals who killed the Native Americans and blacks. Russia took down its Stalin statues, didn’t it? And you don’t find many statues of Hitler in Germany these days, at least not in the public squares.
Jesus, thought Etta, even the sensitive but tough Antifas and “left-wing socialist” men, the seemingly well-meaning fellows who went to the marches and meetings, were binary and toxic and full of crap. Etta believed the sensitive but tough Antifas and “left-wing socialist” men tried to follow the correct political path, at least most of the ones she knew (except for the disgusting fascists who showed up every now and then). Even so, the righteous, sensitive but tough Antifas and “left-wing socialist” men, even the seemingly goodhearted ones, had no problem telling a woman lies just to strip her naked and get her into bed. Etta laughed: The ones who could get it up, that is. God, thought Etta, but it wasn’t funny—it was outrageous! Etta had endured it many times—the sensitive but tough Antifas and “left-wing socialist” men trying to get her drunk and naked and then waving their thing in her face. The drunken men trying to get it up—and then trying to get her pregnant and end her life as an independent woman. Even the sensitive but tough Antifas and “left-wing socialist” men—especially the sensitive but tough Antifas and “left-wing socialist” men, Etta had to admit.
Allahu Akbar, sensitive but tough Antifas and “left-wing socialist” men were still toxic, binary men—that is, pigs. Trying to get Etta drunk or stoned, get her naked, then coming up to wave their thing in her face and get it hard and try to get her pregnant. All the girls had to deal with it (except for the most obese ones, of course—because men were fat shamers. They couldn’t stop that shit! They had been trained by the toxic, binary-loving society to crave only the cute, young, fit girls who shaved and oiled their genital areas and spent thousands of dollars making their hair like all the sellout women on television and the billboards. Infuriating! Jesus, everything was ruining the whole world!).
But, well, it was true: Men were pigs. That’s just the way it was (and nothing against pigs, the animals, by the way—see, this is exactly the kind of linguistic prison that capitalism has made for us!). Men were only interested in getting a woman drunk and trying to get it up and trying to make them perform oral sex and get them pregnant. Jesus, men would say anything just to get a woman naked and try to put their thing in her mouth and get her pregnant. Men, thought Etta, were nothing but nonstop liars.
Jesus, some of the men, even the sensitive and righteous Antifas and “left-wing socialist” men, had even tried to get Etta to watch pornography with them. They’d hook the internet to their gigantic television screens, call Etta over to the futon, and want to watch “blowjob cumpilations” and “gang-bang the teens” and the obviously racist, intolerably “goo on the German girls” videos. Etta had always found it extremely embarrassing and inappropriate. Was any of it legal? How old were these embarrassing, disgusting, sellout girls, anyway? “Of course, it’s legal!” the men would say, shaking their heads like it was a stupid question. “Look, it’s got 1.8 million views!” God, it was maddening. God, it was gross!
Just a bunch of disgusting rapists and perverts, really. All men. Toxic. Binary. And completely fascist, even the sensitive but tough Antifas and “left-wing socialist” men. Jesus, even the queers. Especially the queers. Jesus, fags were the worst fascists of anybody. That was totally a fact. Misogynist fascists, each and every so-called male queer. It was wrong to generalize, of course—but did anybody doubt it? Male queers were 100% Nazi fascist misogynists who hated women even more than the so-called straights. How come everyone was afraid of saying this? Buncha politically correct cowards! Ugh, annoying! All those seemingly fun-loving queers wanting to dance around to Liza Minelli and Beyoncé—fake news! Just another male lie—just another trick-door dimension of the all-consuming misogynistic hatred of the male queers!
Jesus, hadn’t anyone ever heard the male queers talk? “Eww, women are mildewy!” was the kind of stuff they said (Etta had read many, many exchanges on the comment boards and internet forums). “The juice from all the woman holes gets all mixed up, eww!” they would say. “Yucky! There’s too many holes! I need a pole to suck on, not a hole!” Well, thought Etta, it made sense, didn’t it? Male queers would hate women, wouldn’t they?—they love sucking and getting screwed—by men!
But Jesus, though Etta—even the so-called “straights” who claimed they wanted to screw women were queer, at least on some level. Yes, she had concluded some months ago—everyone was secretly queer. Wasn’t it obvious? That’s why they called it “cisgendered”—for “sissy.” Ha-ha. Hee-hee. One of Etta’s lesbian friends had said that, and although she doubted it at first, she now had to agree: All men were secretly gay—at least to some extent. Why not? Why wouldn’t they be? Hadn’t it had been proven over and over by the scientific studies (which probably underestimated and lied about it, since the studies were done by men)? That all men were all least part-time gay, thought Etta, was established science, irrefutable—just like global warming, and the fact that the Artic ice was shrinking, raising the sea levels, and the polar bears were dying—just because of the greediness of men.
Especially the men on the staff of the Brainfield Book Barn, the charity bookstore and secondhand clothing boutique where Etta worked: Nothing but wall-to-wall pansy, misogynistic, toxic, binary straight queers—but pretending to be feminists, each and every one! Not a real heterosexual man among them—just queers and fake straights, each one with some combination of earrings and/or facial bolts, tattoos, braided beards or dyed purple, pink or blue hair. Even the ones married to a woman. Especially the ones married to a woman (who was probably a trans anyway, ha-ha, laughed Etta). Buncha phonies.
This one coworker, Eddie Simmons, the other day told Etta he was going to “go trans” just to get into to lesbian groups, including the Brainfield Lesbian Union, and try to get dates. The exchange occurred as Eddie and Etta processed dozens of boxes of donated books in the storage area. They had more books than they could use. And more boxes came in every day. It was almost as if people were in a panic to get rid of their books.
“I’ll show up in a skirt and earrings, they won’t know the difference,” jeered the overweight Eddie, who had dyed his hair green had a “fu Manchu” mustache-beard. “I’ll probably look like one of the hottest girls there. No doubt I will! Look at me, Etta—I’ve got bigger boobs than you! And when I tell them about my long, veiny cock, all those hot lonely dykes will want to suck it all night!”
Etta was shocked. Well, it was true. Yes, Eddie did have bigger breasts than her. But that was because he was fat and never worked out. All he did was sit around, play video games and watch porn.
“Over my dead body!” Etta had exclaimed. “I’ll report you! I’ll tell everyone you’ve got a cock and you’re not a real woman! I’ll tell them to make sure they bring their microscope so they can find your tiny prick, ha-ha! And you’re breasts look like man-boobs! Gross, you won’t fool anyone!”
Eddie, who was married to Tara and had a three-year-old boy at home, lifted up his shirt and flashed Etta his hairless, acne-covered breasts.
“You’re awful, Eddie Simmons, the worst!” laughed Etta. “You’re just a queer who wants to dress up in women’s clothes! Cut off your pee-pee, if you can find it, and then we can talk. Mail it to me in an envelope, I’ll look for it under my microscope. Then I’ll personally escort you to my next Lesbians Love Living meeting. O.K.? Then you can tell how us how much you love women and want to march for lesbian rights, ha-ha!”
“No way!” squealed Eddie. “I’m not a queer, but I’ll play one on TV for a million bucks! I’ll suck a cock for a million on live television, but it doesn’t mean I’m gay!”
“Yes, you are, ha-ha!” Etta fired back. “You’re even worse—you’re an incel! No woman will even look at you—that’s why you have to dress up as one! Eddie the incel! Eddie the incel! Eddie the incel!”
“You’re crazy!” countered Eddie. “I’m not an incel, man! I get tons of pussy—way more than you, Etta! Ask my girlfriend!”
“Liar!” taunted Etta. “You’re a big liar, Eddie Simmons the incel!”
Jesus, incels, thought Etta. That was the dumbest thing yet. A political movement based on being involuntarily celibate? Duh! These guys—did they ever even try to be nice and attractive to a woman? Never. They were unable to set down the joystick or take their eyes off their phone to even deal with women in a humane way. It was just whine whine whine from those incel queers. You owe me your pussy! they would whine on the internet, before shooting up some bar or mini-market. It was almost as if they were forcing women to hate them. Yes, incels were the worst. They couldn’t get it up to save their lives. Why didn’t they just go gay already and be done with it? Or write a painful letter to mommy and commit suicide?
Etta burped and a mix of schnapps and tofu-chicken burrito she’d consumed 90 minutes before. All ingredients soaked in chlorine and estrogen before being warmed up in a “100% natural way.”
She checked her phone. No messages. No calls. Where was everybody? She guessed her mother was still alive. For the last few months, she’d been expecting to get a phone call or message saying her mother had died. After the savings were drained, the insurance company had cut support, and the credit cards had been maxed out, Etta’s aunts and uncles had decided that the best thing to do was declare bankruptcy and find a space for Martha in the county hospice. It really had been a case of “your money or your life,” and now both were more or less lost. With the money gone, the doctors had decided morphine was the last best remaining choice for treatment. There was still a chance she could recover, they had said, but a fifth surgery was out of the question. So morphine and “prayers for a turnaround” were what was left. A handful of residents died in the low-cost, nonprofit Brainfield-Cherryblossom Orchards Homecare facility each day.
Etta read an article on her news feed about the decline of the global population of bees, butterflies, frogs and birds.
What? There may not be any insects or birds alive in the next 100 years?
Etta shrugged. Well, if the scientists said so, it must be true. The poisons had killed her mother and now the birds and bees, too. Etta unscrewed the cap of her schnapps bottle and had a slug. There, that felt better. She had another.
Yes, the world was ending, she thought. Well, it was about time. Finally. Yep, global warming and global warring would kill everyone very soon. It actually couldn’t be too soon, she thought. The idea of an inhospitable planet, burned out, radioactive, all the bugs and birds dead, didn’t seem so terrible. People were well deserving of it. Screw everybody.
Etta staggered up the hill. Gosh, she was tired. There was always a price when you started at the wine bar when it opened at eleven, then continued drinking and smoking pot at home before wandering out again.
But who cared, it was Monday, her day off. Her legs hurt—maybe she should take a five-minute rest? Sit down right next to this tree, over here in this little park next to the apartment complex? Why not? It wasn’t too late, only about seven, and she didn’t have any plans for the evening. Maybe later she’d go over to the Twelve Oaks Café for a whiskey and to see who was hanging around. She had run out of marijuana and needed to make a purchase. And those middle-aged, balding guitar player guys who warbled on the stage weren’t very talented, and their jokes were beyond terrible, but at least it was something to watch.
Etta yawned and sat on the grass. She opened her fanny pack and removed half a roach from a plastic baggie. She lit and inhaled. In another minute, it was gone. She swallowed the butt and had another slug of schnapps. She yawned again and rolled under a bush.
With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power... Fascism is a worldwide disease... The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. —From “Wallace Defines ‘American Fascism’,” by Henry A. Wallace, 33rd vice president of the United States (1941–1945), The New York Times, April 9, 1944
Etta awoke in darkness. She brushed away spider webs and sat up.
What the heck? Through the branches she saw a small man floating by the apartment window.
Yes, a small man. Floating in the air.
He seemed about two or three feet tall. The man had a pointy blond beard. He was wearing a silken purple robe with glowing stars and moons on it.
Etta was shocked to see him opening the window. The little man was trying to get into that house!
Etta sprang up, sprinted over and smacked the tiny fellow to the ground. He squirmed atop the gravel, struggling to get up. Etta squatted over him, her knees on each side of his head.
“Argh, uh,” the little man spluttered, beating his fists against Etta’s thighs and pulling at her cargo pants. “I’m working, lady! C’mon, give me back my invisibility cloak!”
“Invisibility cloak?” said Etta. “Working?”
“Please, lady—don’t talk so loud, you’ll wake the neighbors! Yes, I’m working. The citizen who lives in this abode has shown an affinity for neo-Nazi death-cult stylings—and we are assisting him with his passion by means of updating his Fascism Sniffer. The system says he is ripe for an upgrade to the newest models. And it must be correctly calibrated. That’s my job!”
“F-f-f-fascism Sniffer?” said Etta. “No way, man! That sounds like evil shit. I’m putting you under arrest—citizen’s arrest! I’ve had it with weirdo sickos like you. I’m calling the police.”
Etta stood, grabbed the little fellow by the arm and hoisted him into the air. He dangled in her grip, swinging back and forth.
“Wow lady,” he said, staring at Etta’s pierced nose, lips and cheeks. “Did you know somebody’s been using your face for a pincushion? I’d do something about that if I was you.”
Etta glared at the fellow, then slapped him twice across the chin. “That’s it!” she roared. “I’m taking you in!” She got out her phone to call the police.
“No, don’t arrest me!” he said, squirming as he tried to free himself from Etta’s hold. “No cops! That’ll get us both into trouble—real bad trouble. Let me go or I’ll zap you!”
“Zap me? Not a chance!” snarled Etta. “I want to speak to your boss! Who do you work for? I want you arrested and taken to court!”
The little man sighed. “O.K., lady, you got me. I admit it. It’s only happened twice before, three times counting you—so I’ll do what I can. We’re supposed to say, ‘Fair is fair’ when this happens. That’s the policy. Come on, I’m parked around the corner. I’ll take you to the Hole Tower base. You can meet my bosses, Mr. Language and Ms. Spectacle. They’ll explain everything.”
“Hole Tower? Ms. Spectacle? That’s it, I’m putting you under arrest! Who do you work for? What’s your name? Come on, tell me the truth!”
“O.K., lady, O.K.,” said the little man. “But please, put me down first! I’ll tell you everything.”
Etta considered for a moment before loosening her grip. The little man swung free and jumped to the ground.
“My name is Pluto Plato Plutarch,” he began. “I’m a Technician First-Class for the Human Control Agency, the HCA. Controlled Opposition Division. Ain’t ya ever heard of the HCA? And no, I don’t carry identification. It’s against every rule in the book. Nobody’s supposed to know nothin’.”
“N-n-n-no way!” said Etta. “Human Control Agency—that sounds super evil! That’s fascist!”
Pluto P. Plutarch shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you, lady,” he said. “We just do our job. We got to meet our quotas. And yes, fascists is the name of the game these days. New orders coming in every minute, worldwide. Come on, let’s get out of here before anybody sees us.”
“Where are we going?”
“I told you, lady—to meet my bosses. Isn’t that what you wanted?”
Plutarch took out his wand and, before Etta could do anything, jabbed her in the soft flesh of her inner arm. The thin device, about a foot long, rippled and pulsed with the colors of the rainbow. The tiny man nodded and put the wand back in his scabbard.
“Thought so,” said Pluto. “You’re in good shape, lady. All sniffers and lenses working fine: Fascism. Antifa. Big Media. Alt-Media. Unsocial Media. Homosexual Scenes & Themes. Social Justice Memes. Major TV Series. And you’ve been upgraded recently, with bonus packs.”
“What?” Etta raised her hand threateningly. “What are you talking about, mister? You better watch it, man, or I’ll smack you again!”
“What I mean is,” said Pluto, “is your sniffers and lenses are working fine. Everything’s calibrated correctly. You are sniffing and seeing all that we think you should. Nothing more and nothing less. This what we do in the HCA. I don’t know any more.”
Etta was confused. She remembered Rule No. 1: She must always be firm with men and make sure she got what she wanted. Because men could never be believed or trusted. They’d always try to strip you naked and put their thing in your mouth. They’d always try to rip you off. And they were always lying.
“Sniffers and lenses?” she squealed. “What are you talking about? Tell me now!”
But Etta was shouting at the wall. Pluto P. Plutarch had already turned the corner.Etta scrambled after him. The little man picked up something from the grass that looked like a strip of plastic covered in glitter.
“Ah, my invisibility cloak,” he said. “Damn clips. There’s a ton of g-forces when you land, but it shouldn’t be a problem. In the old days, never would’ve happened. Now, these manufacturers don’t give a damn. Everything’s been outsourced to the lowest-cost supplier—and they just print it using the oldest printers and the oldest version of the software they can find. Yes, lady—shitty factories run by uneducated sub-species! They’ll do anything to make a buck. That’s state-cartel Ponzi-crony capitalism for you.”
Pluto P. Plutarch donned his cloak. He sighed and grinned. “C’mon, lady, let’s go.”
Pluto P. Plutarch snatched Etta’s right hand and tucked it under his little arm.
The midget leapt into the air and hung there, floating.
“O.K.,” he told Etta. “We’ll be at Hole Tower in a jiffy. Hold on tight, you may feel a slight ruffling of your hair.”
Etta was confused. “H-h-h-huh?” she stammered, suddenly feeling woozy. “What’s happening? What are you talking about? I don’t see anything. . . .”
“Lady, you are now aboard a cesium-powered, magnetic fusion vehicle.”
Etta felt a jolt, something like an electrical shock—and was stunned to find herself 9,000 feet in the air. She looked down at the grid of city lights, bewildered.
“What’s happening?” she mumbled.
“Do you like me?” asked a suddenly leering Pluto P. Plutarch.
His tongue unrolled. He wrapped it around Etta’s neck.
The cycle vaulted into the clouds. Etta blacked out.
© Thor Garcia, 2019