Narrative Interlude – Joyride

The effort to embroider the following case in stitches of narrative seems almost too costly to the clerk of this court. Too easy somehow, as those stitches, their shapenness, can be seized on to exonerate the society that ultimately authored the deed. Of course such a pretext could be availed for any of the foregoing crimes related in this series. So then let the purpose of this gap in the weave be this: To state plainly that these glimpses into infamy are meant to afford the reader no quarter. Not an inch. On the contrary, they are formed as a ringing indictment of a nation descending into criminal madness.

Given the inability of our consumers of news and narrative to engage in principled thinking with regard to the overall shape of the nightmare –indeed, their disdain for principle and thinking alike – the indictment must be delivered in the form of a trickle of particular transgressions, in the hope that the consumers might at length and years past due discern the deluge of the whole, the design of which can signify only one aim to the mind of this humble clerk of misdeeds: Having once destroyed their freedoms, to destroy, nay obliterate, the vital spirit of an entire people.

This grim enterprise derives its strength from the people’s neglect of their faculty of judgment, from the fallowness of their reason, from the sclerosis of their shared language, memory and common sense – in short, from the willing collaboration of the victim population in its own undoing. This clerk draws but little solace from the tautological construction suggesting itself to some supple minds in search of comfort, namely that the ultimate penalty – being reduced to the status of brute, outcast, fiend – is imposed in the very instant of the deed’s commission, precisely because this consolation penalty is assessed by an ethereal court exercising its jurisdiction at infinite removes of time and space.

Such solace found wanting, the clerk sometimes wonders: Is the whole nation nothing but an odious machine, a hellish contraption predictably clanking toward its odious mechanical destiny? Is our fate sealed, mere fodder now for the dispassionate post hoc judgments of history? Many are the signs that point to despair. And yet there is one abiding reason to go on, for those who’ve not had their judgment salted and scorched. It is the same ineffable reason to which man has ever clung in the hour of his greatest need, suspended between rosy dawn and the blaze of conflagration. It is tempting to record that the reason turns on the hope that the nightmare can be repulsed through the slow-spreading ink of refusal, resistance and withheld consent. It is well to hold out such hopes if hope one must, but the clerk must caution: hope is a secondary and fragile motive. It is spiritual, if one may say so without overly impugning the world of spirit. Rather, the clerk would submit that what keeps us at the task even as a tsunami of crime cloaked in unnatural law engulfs the world should be put down not to hope, but to an unassailable verity of biology, chemistry, yea ontology: It is the visceral recognition that we were not made for the direction things are moving in.

It is a direction that makes you say: That’s not me. It’s not of me andI’m not of it. I may only be by opposing it. I cannot consent to it, I cannot work with it, no more than I can look away. No, you say. I see what this is. Therefore those whose reason and humanity are in bloom to spite the tempest have a very easy choice of it: To go on opposing, or – what is tantamount to the death of the self – be other than themselves. If others discern in the choice fertile soil for shoots of hope, so much the better. Would to God it were so. When noble and brave souls say that there can be no future if we fail to stand our ground against the forces ranged to obliterate our humanity, they mean it in the very precise sense that in the wake of such failure there can be no future for them as men and women in full possession of their faculties of reason, judgment and principled thinking. It is a matter not of heroism, but of the will to survive, not first biologically, but with identity intact: to continue in being only for as long as we are able to remain who we are.

So much for the bedrock reasons. Now a word on the methods of the clerk presenting, before proceeding to the elements of the latest crime to wash over the storm-tossed clerical bow. But first we must suffer the Devil’s indignities: The Devil, who stays the clerk’s pen in the siren voice of doubt: Why transcribe these events at all? Or, provided you must transcribe, why not confine it to 140-character snippets of pabulum and invective? What of the dossier they keep on you? What can you possibly hope to accomplish? The clerk thanks the Devil for his insightful questions. In the way of an answer he would simply point the horned gentleman in the direction of the response averred to the question above.

Being yourself, we’ve said, is nothing less than remaining in being. The clerk uses the written word in accordance with his nature and his abilities. His nature is to harangue at length, eyes riveted to the metastasizing squalor at the base end of the spectrum of human affairs, and with a marked preference for modulating the entire spectrum of English usage. The clerk notes that his preference for compound convolutions of articulation also serves a preservative function, in the way of a sandbag put up against the slipping away of our language and its cumulative wisdom. Only a language with its vital link to the past intact is equipped to traffic in multivariate realities; in the absence of this link, so necessary for the building of a solid case, reliable judgment and memory become impossible. For – channeling now the generic voice of the figurehead Poseidon presiding over our ocean of crime – make no mistake: This is about building a case on the bedrock of reason and natural law, and prosecuting that case to the full when time shall serve.

As such, in compiling the evidentiary record, the recorder of the court uses real instances drawn from a narrow spectrum of officially sanctioned crime (so that they will not be forgotten), and adorns them in the wings of narrative probability (so that they will be remembered). The burdensome truth is that even within this narrow spectrum, crime teems superabundant, its flood overwhelming a mortal clerk’s capacity to catalog. It is obvious that fiction and the imagination are superfluous implements in the toolkit of who would chronicle depravity; yet can it not be said that depravity, in particular of the official kind, has crested to such a height that it surpasses the comprehending power of perception, and must therefore be made tactile and graspable to the imagination?

With respect to the red gentleman’s third question, the clerk respectfully points out that the documentary task to be tackled within the confines of his own archives is clear, and that he will not stoop to concern himself with any knock-on effects his work may have in the red respondent’s own archives.

As much as anything, this dramatized documentary campaign is about conjuring a more natural state of being, about preserving our judgment to rehearse for the world as it might be: one where men and women are born free, where all crime is punished, where we not only retain possession of but improve the abilities with which we are endowed, and where submission to the beguilements of tyranny would be inconceivable. Those to whose attention these filings are addressed are reminded that there was a time not long ago when the following course of events would in fact have been inconceivable, and when their improbable occurrence would have been met with harsh penalties for the perpetrator.

The lineaments of today’s crime are these: An eight-year-old boy has been watching too much television, and has received too little instruction. Pouncing on the moment of his mother’s distraction, he snatches the keys to her car and whispers to his kid sister: here’s our chance to go for a joyride. She agrees quietly, almost without reflection. Or is it that she cannot bear the thought of having to tattle on her big brother? No matter. There they are, driver and shotgun, key in the ignition. The boy has studied how his mom drives. This one to go, this one to stop, and this is how we turn. Mostly everything looks the way it does on his gaming console. Except now it’s real. He’s known all along that his mom will notice when he starts up the car. The question is how long she’ll be coming out the door. He’s has gone through at least some of the scenarios in his mind. If she comes out before they get rolling he’ll just get out and say they were playing a mean trick. If she comes out with them halfway down the drive he’ll keep going nice and slow and then do one lap around the block, just like he’s been planning. She’d be standing at the end of the drive the whole time worried sick, but he’d show her he was no baby. He knows from the TV that it falls to the boy to step up when there’s no father in the home. And doesn’t him driving pretty much prove he can handle whatever needs doing?

Something of the sort must have been racing through the boy’s mind as he turned the key in the ignition. It could be that he tried channeling the way his father used to do it: quick, firm, precise. His father had been a military man. Could be that his never-ending deployments and his mother’s growing sadness were the reasons so much of the boy’s rearing had been done by the television, even before the father was cut down[][]. Could be the father had wanted to pass on to the son the few things he knew for sure before being wasted in a foreign land, far from any line of national defense, but had kept putting it off because his was not a combat unit and he never once had the feeling he wouldn’t be coming back, and moreover because the best thing about coming home had always been his children’s innocence of the way of the world; an innocence the father had come to regard as a treasure worth preserving at any cost. Which could be how it came that it was from the television and not the father the boy knew he was now called on to fill the emptiness left by his father’s passing, and could account for the boy’s resorting to mechanical gestures undertaken in mimicry of rites of passage but dimly understood.

The boy steeled himself. The path that lay before him was clear. He would break the law of the home that consigned him to the status of boy, and by breaking it become a man. In other words, by being what he wanted to be, be it only for a moment, he would become it. This was where the rubber met the road. The lap around the block would be his time machine into manhood, and his way of transcending – for is childhood not the perpetual dream of transcendence? – the law of the home.

All this and more the boy had thought through in his way, or intuited. What he had not considered was what passes for the law of the state, or that his mother in her ill-considered panic might embroil him in its blind fury, or that this fury hung baleful and potent in the atmosphere girding an entire continent; or that by putting in a call to the police station, the boy’s mother would summon the fury, focus it, and conjure it down onto her son’s head like a lightning bolt.

This is what happened. The boy turned the key in the ignition and the engine roared to life. He sank down in the seat to get his foot on the brake and then reached over his head to pull the steering column-mounted gear shifter down into the reverse position. The car went lurching down the drive. A bit more sloppily, perhaps, than he had imagined. Dicey to begin with, what made him really nervous about the situation was his kid sister. Her angelic face was stretched into a deathly mask before they’d even nosed out onto the road. The boy tried to give her a reassuring look but inadvertently stepped on the gas. The girl screamed as the car roared out into the road. Hearing the commotion in the drive, the mother snapped out of her wine-drunk reverie and bolted to the window. The car was just disappearing from view. She lost absolutely no time in notifying the police. None.

Though he might only concede it tacitly, perhaps by sharing a high-five with an accomplice over the body of a victim, or else from deep within the cordillera of a cocaine high, the officer given the signal to intervene by the dispatch operator is the sort of man who joins a police force for a chance to kill with impunity. A surfeit of malevolent training has encouraged him to think that his voice has the power of law over the productive people from whom his salary is extorted – and that those who defy it ought and must be punished with swift and savage retribution, lest the heavens fall. Several members of the abject class of people bereft of the trinkets and powers vested in officials and functionaries by the state have died at his hands, but as he was cleared of wrongdoing each time, his record is as pure as the driven snow. This is the man detailed to interdict what the dispatcher terms a “juvenile on a joy ride, intentions unknown”.

The man’s mind is buffeted between the competing influences of steroids, cocaine and whiskey as he tears through prim blocks and leafy districts en route to the GPS coordinate where his perp was last seen. Finding the punk fuck’s vehicle is a cinch. It’s a tan Aztec inching along a shady block, alternating between riding the curb and grinding its rims up against it. The Aztec has tinted windows all round, so the peace officer can’t discern profiles through the back or faces in the sideviews. Which pisses him off something fierce. Presently he inserts himself as closely as possible behind the Aztec’s tailpipe and gets on the bullhorn: “Police! Stop the vehicle now or there’s gonna be consequences!” The boy does not know to use the mirrors and never saw the officer approaching. This is not something he’s rehearsed. What is he to do? They’ve made it more than halfway round the block. Home and mother are literally right around the corner. He looks at his sister but her face, frozen in terror, yields up no clues. If only they could make it back, surely his mother could explain. Besides, the officer chasing them sounds meaner’n hell. So the boy maintains his razor-sharp focus, keeps grinding the curb at five miles per hour, struggling all the while to see the road over the steering column, his hands all clenched knuckle and sinew.

At which point the officer rams the Aztec from behind. “I said pull the fuck over!! This is your last chance, or I will disable your vehicle.” This sets the boy into a panic. How could a police officer act like that? Maybe it isn’t a police after all. Maybe it’s a bad man trying to do them harm. His sister lets out an blood-curdling scream as his foot bears down on the accelerator and guides the Aztec into the middle of the roadbed. He’s not about to let this guy get his sister. He’s evaded pursuit in video games hundreds of times, so why not now? The Aztec in doing 60 by the time they reach the turn onto their street. He knows better from his gaming than to turn the wheel at such a speed. His mother is standing defenseless at the end of the drive. They see her and she sees them as they blast through the intersection, the peace officer in close pursuit. “I want my mommy!” the sister screams.

Behind his own steering wheel meanwhile, the law enforcement officer is “really flipping [his] shit”, per the internal disciplinary memo that will be drawn up once the dust has settled. The incident now unfolding is nothing short of disrespect of an officer, and as such cannot not be left unchecked. The two vehicles are neck and neck at 80 miles an hour when the valiant officer makes a bold move to disable the fugitives’ means of flight by sweeping out and knifing in with what to the peace officer releases a thrilling cataract of aggression. The prowler’s right bumper bears into and collapses the Aztec’s rear left tire. The result is immediate and devastating. The officer jackknifes to a halt and sees the Aztec wobble before spinning two complete revolutions in the blink of an eye. Still doing 60 or more, it wallows, careens into the right curb, and erupts into a series of ungainly barrel rolls that terminate in the vehicle’s sickening impact with a stout oak. Satisfied that his disrespector has been immobilized, the officer sprints at the hissing and mangled wreck, sidearm drawn. “Get the fuck out!” he yells. But there are no more punk fucks to surrender. All there is now are two bodies drained of hot blood and young life. The boy’s left eyeball has popped from its socket and hangs suspended in the lower frame of the steering wheel, as if strained too far in search of what it will never find.

“Yegh. Fuckin’ disgusting,” the officer says at the sight of his handiwork’s result. In his report on the incident the officer will frame his conduct as a series of valiant split-second decisions whose outcome, though by all means tragic, no doubt contributed to the saving of lives on balance, as the youths had been gunning for an area of heavy pedestrian traffic, intentions unknown. It is unlikely that the officer will be punished with anything more than a feathery token of censure, as to admit fault would be to concede ground in the all-important battle against the populace. It goes without saying that if the mother is compensated in any way, it will be with monies extorted from the victim populace at large.

It is not only safe but certain to assume that the officer sleeps soundly the night after the incident, having at length come down off his cocaine cordillera and settled into a forgetful whiskey bog.

Let us pan out and close with a wider view, as is the clerk’s prerogative: When 500 years ago the trans-Atlantic explorers made landfall on the shores of the New World, they saw wildlife teeming to stagger the imagination, a blank slate, and ready riches beyond the dreams of avarice. All these years later, the only articles in equal abundance – for we cannot call them goods – are depravity, destruction and crime. Depravity to undo the imagination, destruction to undo the body, crime to undo the soul.

Narrative Interlude – Joyride

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