BY IAN MURPHY
It came to me in a crystalline vision. Like Tesla, but dimmer. I could see the device functioning flawlessly in my mind’s eye, silhouetted by autumn dusk. Its design was simple, elegant, radio-controlled. The distant controller triggered the motor, turning the winch, winding the string, squeezing the pneumatic garden sprayer handle—and POOP! My invention wouldn’t revolutionize the world as did Tesla’s alternating current, but it would shoot shit at Karl Rove.
Chekhov said, “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” But this isn’t a Russian play. It’s nonfiction Americana. Besides, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “There are no second acts in American lives.”
You already know, or should, that I failed. A successful biological attack on one of America’s most demonstrable villains would have made the nightly news. Dowsing the Blossom with Turd would have been a visual poem for the ages, the authoring of which may have meant hard time at Gitmo, listening to Hannah Montana on an endless loop and other prescribed evils. It is in this sentiment alone that all bumbling morons can find the smallest of conciliations: When a course of action is so very stupid, a plan is so very dumb, the only possible road to success lay nestled deep in the doldrums of defeat.
* * *
“Who’s a good girl?” I cooed to BEAST publisher Paul Fallon’s ancient mutt Fred as she took a steamy dump. “You are! Resh ru rar!” Her arthritic frame turned around shakily. She sniffed and looked at me with what I assumed was pride. Back in Fallon’s basement, he and editor Al Uthman were discussing Marxist cuisine. I descended the stairs and hoped they wouldn’t smell it, the little bag of broken dreams.
“From each according to his abilities—to prepare a decent wine reduction!” Uthman spoke sternly, stroking his communist beard.
“I’m gonna squirt poo-juice on Karl Rove,” I blurted, taking my seat. If I was going down for this, these Pinkos would be coming with me. But they know me pretty well. They’ve heard all of my half-brained schemes and watched them subsequently—and predictably—fail. One more dumb idea didn’t warrant much discussion of its legal ramifications because, as Fallon says, it was all “pie in the sky.” Uthman managed the sad smile you’d offer a child who told you that his dad was a war hero stationed on the moon. In typically dysfunctional BEAST fashion, he didn’t have the heart to tell me how very retarded I am—and Fallon mumbled on incoherently about something totally unrelated. “Fuck the Greatest Generation!” He finally crescendoed, red-faced and pounding the coffee table with his fist. Some scotch jumped out of his glass—a clear sign that a BEAST meeting is adjourned.
This was before the election, just prior to our new era of hope. Partisan division was still in the air. Justice was unthinkable. The very word impeachment inspired guffaws throughout the political class. And prison? Well, that’s fine for blacks, but not for the President of the United States! (maybe Barack can change that, too) Yet, I wanted revenge. And poetic justice was within my grasp.
Rove was to debate General Wesley Clark at the University of Buffalo. The ruminant McCain proxy was originally slated to rhetorically tussle with John Edwards, but the finely coiffed adulterer backed out after being trapped in a hotel lobby bathroom by a leech from The National Enquirer. I say leech out of respect, understand.
Rove has security and so does the university, but Clark added a whole new sense of danger to my puerile fantasy. As a West Point valedictorian and philosophizing Rhodes Scholar, he seems like the kind of guy who sits with his back to the door, playing chess against himself, quoting Sun Tzu and identifying arrivals by the sound of their shoes. “Put down the poo-shooter and back away slowly,” I could hear his voice folded in the stuttering engine of my vintage Chevy Cavalier. “Check and mate, Mr. Murphy.”
* * *
Making a right onto the thruway, I was eating a ham sandwich, smoking a cigarette, sipping a Dr. Pepper, tuning the radio, checking my voicemail, riffling through the glove-box for my shades—and the backseat for a hoodie—when the driver-side door suddenly swung open. The pitiful duct tape latch I’d fashioned had come undone. Damn American cars! I thought.
I saw myself reflected in the Niagara Falls RC hobby shop window. I was sporting a wispy, unkempt beard, my sweatshirt hood was up and I wore an incredibly conspicuous pair of wrap-around Blu Blockers. I looked every bit the UV-sensitive Unabomber. I hastily shed my Kaczynski costume and entered.
I carefully studied the locked glass cases, trying to decide if I should construct the bastard from scratch or buy a car and just gut the thing.
“Can I help you?” asked the clerk.
“Um, sure,” I said, a bit jumpy. “Would it be cheaper to—”
“The thing about RC,” he said, “is the more you’re willing to spend, the more awesome your setup is gonna be.”
“OK,” I agreed. “But—”
“Let me go get my car!” he squealed and disappeared into the back.
“No, that’s…” I trailed off. He was already bounding back toward me.
“Just feel the torque on my servos.” the excited clerk demanded, popping the plastic covering off the small chassis. “Go on!”
“Yeah,” I said. “Wow.”
“That’s not factory!” he wheezed gleefully and twiddled the remote. “That’s all custom, man.”
“Yeah, I don’t need servos,” I told him. “Just give me the cheapest—”
“Well, you gotta have servos!” he balked. “How else are you going to turn?”
“I’m not going to turn.” I said, feeling a little like a Saudi immigrant in a flight training class trying to explain why he doesn’t care about landing. “Could you just tell me what’s the cheapest—is it the boat?”
“That has servos, too,” he replied. “You need servos to operate the rudder.”
“I don’t care about the goddamn rudder!” I exhorted.
“Well, the servo is attached to the rudder,” he spoke quizzically, “and the rudder turns the boat. You need the servo to—to turn.”
There was no getting around it.
“Oh, so the servo turns the boat?” I asked.
“Well, yeah,” he said. “That what I’ve been trying—”
“Well, if it has servos,” I said. “I’ll take it!”
* * *
I looked around my office. Dissected boat bits, empty tubes of epoxy, nuts, bolts, wood scraps, sprayer components, springs, tubes and Home Depot receipts were strewn about the desk and floor. At this point, I questioned my sanity—and thought about moving to a cabin in Montana. The device that eventually took shape before me was a tragic, lopsided, epoxy-drenched betrayal of my glorious vision. But it worked! Two bolted wooden slats cut from a dresser drawer held the boat’s motor in place about four inches away from the pneumatic garden sprayer handle. A spool glued to the motor’s shaft wound the string that was tied to the sprayer’s spring-loaded hair-trigger. A jet of water burst across the dining room, drenching my life-sized Ronald Reagan cardboard cutout. “Trickle down, bitch!” I laughed maniacally from the living room couch, collapsed the remote antenna and ran to get my trusty ShamWow!®
Nerves aside, the plan was as simple as a boulder rolling down a hill: Literally plant the device in a plastic fern ($44.99, Home Depot), get the thing on stage before the debate, and drench Rove with dookie from a safe distance. “Up to a quarter-mile,” the spastic clerk had assured me. The two-gallon sprayer jug, trigger and boat guts would fit snugly in the base of the plant. I painted the sprayer hose brown, so it’d look like an innocuous vine crawling up the tiny plastic trunk. The dog poop was to be mixed into a gallon of chocolate milk. Maybe Rove would even lick some off of his lips!
The problem, naturally, was how to get the plant on stage and where to aim the nozzle. Which podium would be Rove’s? I didn’t mind the idea of General Clark taking collateral damage, but as a primary target he was a waste of ammo. I observed from Google image searches that in addition to crowding the stage with gaudy plastic foliage, the University of Buffalo has a cute habit of placing the “conservative” debate participant at stage left, to the audience’s right. Still, how could I get the plant on stage just prior to the debate, surrounded by UB staff, security and several hundred onlookers?
Destiny is a word I despise, but since my vision I’d felt like the proverbial cog. My brain was locked into some pretty heavy algorithms. It was a religious high. I’d found faith. I had to believe that a citizen could fight back in a substantive, poop-oriented way. After some meditation, I decided to counterfeit a blue “UB STAFF” t-shirt of the kind I photographed during a reconnaissance mission. It would take some balls, but I could walk right through the front door a few hours before the debate while the stage was being assembled, plant the plant, switch on the batteries and get the hell out. But another problem presented itself. The battery pack from the boat had a life-span of about two-hours and the device couldn’t be switched on remotely. I’d sapped a lot of the juice during testing, and the recharger could only be plugged into a car lighter socket. The lighter in my car hasn’t worked for years. Duct tape would do nothing.
“Sure, sure,” the guy at Radio Shack said. “Just plug this into the AC wall outlet, plug your car charger in here and it’ll convert it to DC.” Easy enough, thought the half-bright Tesla.
The debate was in four hours. My UB shirt looked authentic and fit well. The suit I would later change into was clean and pressed. I even shaved. The poo-juice was mixed, the sprayer pump was pumped as much as I could pump it, and the device was stealthily housed in the plastic fern. I was ready to press my luck—fulfill my destiny. I plugged in the freshly charged battery pack and, before hitting the road, went to the bathroom.
Now, I’ve been known to stink up a bathroom with the best of them. My diet is perhaps the most patriotic thing about me. But this smell? What had I eaten, I thought, that could possibly produce this unholy stench? Tacos? Pizza? McSomething-or-others? It doesn’t even smell like shit! It’s far worse, I thought, flaring my nostrils in self-revulsion. It stinks like a mountain of trash….old garbage….burning appliances….wiring….plastic—the device! I shrieked. Pants around my ankles, I leaped toward the door. Billows of black smoke poured in from the hallway. I waddled furiously to the living room. The fern was consumed in flames. The hose had melted and shit-juice was spraying wildly around the living room like from a child’s Octopus lawn sprinkler. I hurriedly turned to fetch the fire extinguisher, caught my foot on my pants and fell hard. I looked back at the growing blaze in panic, eyes like saucers. The smoke detector alarmed. “I know, you bastard!” I howled as I wriggled out of my pants and crawled toward the kitchen. I quickly limped back to the living room. Standing there pantless, fire extinguisher dangling at my side, being whipped by spurts of chocolaty foulness, I paused briefly, sullenly, to absorb the scope of the tragedy. This was my Hindenburg. I feebly dowsed the steaming wreckage in foam, crumpled to the floor and cried like a smelly infant.
I bathed, again, put on my suit and went to the debate any way. Much like the last eight years, it was a maddening affair, steeped in sophistry, lies and the kind of simple rhetorical tricks that a competent opponent could have easily picked apart. But, like the last eight years, the Democrat du jour wasn’t up to the task. Truth isn’t enough to persuade the throng in the face of fear. The battle lines were already drawn, and the debate only served to reinforce the crowd’s existing biases. Clark’s perfunctory performance roused the righteous, and Rove’s demagoguery delighted the dumb.
“Yeah, and ain’t we forget it!” yelled one fool when Rove reminded the audience that we hadn’t been attacked since 9/11. The 4,200 American deaths in Iraq don’t count because they were killed by our own government. This point was lost, apparently, on the hundred or so protesters who were outside waving signs and screaming for Rove’s prosecution.
The Bush administration was a total fucking nightmare. And that pig bastard Rove held George’s hand every immoral and illegal step of the way. Outing Valerie Plame alone was enough to land Rove in the clink—not to mention ignoring repeated congressional subpoenae—but instead, the swine walks free, collecting massive fees as a professional liar. UB gave him more than a hundred grand to do just that.
The attitude in Washington is to focus on the future—to put the last tragic eight years behind us and move on. That doesn’t cut it for me. And it probably doesn’t cut it for the grieving parents who saw their sons die on a battlefield that shouldn’t have existed beyond Rumsfeld’s fevered fantasies. If Rove is Bush’s brain, may the 43rd president be lobotomized before we string him up. Perhaps even more important than reversing the terrible course set by the last administration is to ensure this executive madness will never happen again, lest we look back regretfully at Bush in a generation and wish the precedent we set was one of justice, not mere hope. In order to make a clean break from the mistakes of the past, the hammer still must be brought down on those responsible. The poop-machine may have failed, but it stood a better chance of success than Kucinich’s articles of impeachment ever did.
Something has to be done. Bathing alone can’t remove the stink of some turds.