I met Spartacus in the back room of the Pioneer Square Saloon, playing pool with his demo man Michaelangelo. I would get to know them and their legions well, living as we did in close quarters, training around an abandoned lumber mill on the Olympic Peninsula. They were not pleasant people, pumped up with machismo, bravado and very few who expressed in anything resembling articulate-ness their reason for doing what they do, and, more importantly why they were doing it now, at home.
They’d made their bones in Iraq, Indonesia, Haiti and the ‘Stans, but they weren’t Rambos, no these guys were sophisticated and rich. Really, fucking rich. They drove up in Hummers and Escalades even though gas was through the roof, pulling out wads of cash like toilet paper rolls. They’d been trained by the best and had a taste of nation-building, and whether they acquired it or it acquired them didn’t really matter, they weren’t going to stop, they were going to ply their trade wherever they could and the way they looked at it, the Western States, as Spencer had said, just meant an shorter commute.
The architects of failure may have slunk off to their ranches and ski lodges, but these guys, the hard-hatted steel-toed builders, the masons, and the electricians, plumbers, and, yeah, we might as well say it, the contractors, were still on the job.
One thing can’t be denied, with their men, money and guns, they took our misfit conglomeration of bums, drug-dealers, gang-bangers, washed-out vets, evangelists, martial artists and mailmen and they built us an army.
Out there on the peninsula, Max and I couldn’t help feeling like Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine mixing with Hessians and Patriots in some fucked-up amalgam of America’s past and future. Running through the trees, ducking and rolling, shooting at targets that eventually started to fall as our pathetic marksmanship and soldiering slowly grew competent. Some of our carrier-brothers still wore their postal uniforms, maybe for laughs, maybe cuz that’s all they had or maybe cuz they just didn’t care.
There were lively discussions in the barracks, cots originally segregated, mixed as the weeks rolled on. The biggest topic of debate, stupid as it sounds, was about the design of an official uniform, the uniform of the Army of the Western States of America. You’d have thought it was the Fashion Institute of Design, every night sketches were passed around and critiqued by the various camps, no longer segregated by race or creed, now divided into minimalists, those preferring a more functional look, and the more flamboyant crowd who thought we deserved something more decorative and regal.
A guy we called Radar handled logistics, bringing in truckloads of food and other supplies, mostly from the Costco in Port Angeles. Once, though, Max and I went into town with him, feeling like aliens descended onto another planet after our time out in the dripping woods, and found a sewing supply store where we bought fabric and a cheap machine. Max had a guy, Tyrell, who was really very talented, and the plan was for him to put together a prototype. He wasn’t a minimalist. It didn’t go over real well.
We looked for anything to break up the monotony, the slogging through the woods, the training, interspersed with eating, sleeping and talking. Spencer was right about my vets, Joe and his buddies straightened up in a hurry when put back into an environment with a little structure, the food and exercise didn’t hurt either.
I grew tired of playing Minuteman, all the grab-assing and bullshit was fun, but I preferred the officers’ quarters with its wine and words, discussing strategy and what tactics we’d employ, the next steps after we’d accomplished this mission in the Pacific Northwest.
We were still publishing online. Travis was taking my emails and putting them out there into the blogosphere for me. The USPS scandal didn’t go away quickly. We’d been caught tampering with a sacred trust, the feds had enough on us to lock us up for life just on the gun-running and the drug-dealing, but it was violating The Post that really got them fuming. You should have heard those knuckleheads in Washington (the bad Washington) raving like lunatics at our nerve and degeneracy. Statements to the press from both sides turned into a riotous array of vitriolic proclamations.
You would have thought we’d fucked their mothers or defiled their graves. They were backed into a corner and trying to scrawl their way out of it, but they’d run into the king of scrawl.
I fired back under the pen name Junk. At first it was just picking away at the USPS, wasteful, anachronistic, doomed. Then I launched into the classics, taxation without representation, when in the course of human history and all that shit. Spencer penned a beautiful tract under the name Bennie Franks justifying the formation of local militias as legally covered under the Second Amendment. The country was collectively waiting for a shoe to fall somewhere.
We’d exported war and revolution for so long it was only a matter of time before we were forced to eat our own dogfood, and I kept spewing out the appetizers. The Second Amendment bit hit the flag-waving hunters in the Confederacy pretty hard, they didn’t know what to think. Those back-woods country-fucks failed in their bid, now us lot were talking like we could pull off in the 21st century what they failed to do in the 19th.
Those wine-lubricated evenings talking with Spartacus (Sam from Toledo) and Michaelangelo (Mike from Escondido) were fun, we talked about making a run on the Badlands and grabbing some nukes, pull the old North Korea defense, point an ICBM at Calgary and tell them all to fuck off or the Canucks get it. Maybe move in and take Denver, create our own little Switzerland in the Rockies, mile high and naturally majestic not like tin-horn self-proclaimed majesties ruling from inside the beltway.
“We should take Vegas,” said Mike. “It would be like that Stephen King movie…”
“The Stand,” someone said.
“Yeah, I love that stuff, that post-apocalyptic shit. Mad Max.”
They were all a bunch of movie junkies, they’d seen everything, and not just the crap like you’d expect, classics, too, real classics, Kurosawa, of course, but Bergman and Fellini, too. Radar brought the movies.
The weather started to turn, rains let up, sun-breaks more plentiful and longer. One day our forward lookout drove up leading a big Dodge pick-up. We had the road in blocked, obviously, guards stationed around the perimeter at all times. So, this was unique. Everyone stopped what they were doing to see what was going on and who was going to step out of that truck because, really, they shouldn’t have been there.
There we all were standing with our guns, practicing bayonet thrusts, playing boot camp and this cowboy jumps out of his cab, boots acquiring mud as he walked next to the guard. He tips his hat into the air, and shouts to no one in particular, “I’m looking for Spartacus.”
Smart-ass that I am, I shout back, “I’m Spartacus!”
Mike sees where I’m going with it, and he steps forward and says, “I’m Spartacus!”
Even Milton got into it.
Finally, Spartacus walked over from in front of the officers’ quarters, dismissed our goofy grins shouting, “Will you clowns shut the fuck up and get back to work.”
Then he and the cowboy went inside.
And that was it. The fun was over. We were headed back into town. The cowboy was the messenger.