Jack Fleetwood Jr., a 14-year-old boy with his fathers name, his mothers looks and a mind of his own, sat down on the couch beside his mother in the E room. She seemed happier these days than he could ever recall. She smiled easily and often, and had that look about her that new brides are supposed to have on their honeymoons. His friends at the senior Summer camp he recently returned from, would have called it, "That freshly fucked look." He knew that wasnt as original as they thought it was, but neither was that look. Whatever was responsible for it, he was glad to see it.
"Whatcha watchin Mom?"
Kimberly smiled proudly at her unaffected son in his Red Bear Summer Camp T-shirt and Detroit Tiger baseball cap. She should have told him to remove the cap in the house, but as soon as he realized he was wearing it, he would take it off. She couldnt imagine his friends thinking that the T-shirt was cool and she knew the baseball cap wasnt. But on her son, everything looked cool, because he was. Naturally, she loved the boy, but she also liked him and admired him. When he asked how someone was doing, it was because he wanted to know. If it wasnt good, he wanted to know what he could do to make it better. He was a remarkable little guy, who inspired admiration from everyone, except his father, who was too busy making a name for himself to ever notice how special Little Jack was.
"Its called God, said Kimberly, watching his reaction out of the corner of her eye.
He wrinkled his nose but said nothing until he had given the show a chance. He could tell right away from the G-O-D sign bordered in gold behind the two seated men in military uniforms from different eras, that it was produced on a shoestring. Beyond that, he wasnt prepared to make a judgment.
"Whos that guy?"
"Mom. Ive seen enough of the Civil War to know the general. Whos the sergeant?
Questions like that were among the things she admired most about her son. They showed how he thought. Anyone else would have asked who the black guy was, or the colored guy, or the toasty. Little Jack was looking first at men in American military uniforms. The fact that the sergeant was a dark-skinned man of African descent was as obvious as his uniform, but of no immediate significance to Little Jack.
"Thats Hector Clay," said Kimberly.
Little Jacks face lit up, "I hearda him. Hes always slammin the Party isnt he?"
Little Jack smiled with wisdom and compassion beyond his years, beyond his time and beyond his place in America. "Its okay, Mom. I know the Party is rotten. One of these days Dads gonna see it, too. Hes not a bad guy, you know. He just hasnt caught on yet to how theyre using him."
Kimberly did a double-take of the boy in the baseball cap, incapable of correctly labeling what she felt, as awe. Awe was what one felt in the presence of Gods most wondrous and terrifying of spectacles. This was Little Jack Fleetwood, her little boy.
"Mom. Mom, you can close your mouth, now."
"Oh, Little Jack..."
"What did I say?"
"You dont know?"
"The boy looked skyward for help, noticed the bill of his cap and slid the cap off of his head. "I dont know why it scared you so much," he said, smoothing his hair.
"I wouldnt exactly say you scared me. It was just a little unsettling to hear that you thought about things like that."
"Cant get around it, Mom. DZs, the whole thing with eye color and skin color and people ending up on the X Channel for"
Kimberly felt faint, "What do you know about the X Channel?"
"I never saw it, if thats what you mean. I just know that people like that Hector Clay guy have a funny way of ending up there. Dont you think thats kinda strange?"
Kimberly thought it was strange that her boy would make the connection between Hector and the X Channel. She had seen Dr. Clay on the X Channel before she learned of who he was through a gossip show on the Condor Broadcasting Network and a call-in talk show on National Public Radio. Only now did it occur to her that thousands of people who knew him first as the host of God must have heard about his X Channel escapades through the same indirect sources.
"Wed better see how your father is doing on the Dr. Shannon Show."
"Oh no, not her."
"Yeah...On second thought, youd better not watch."
"Does this have anything to do with that other crazy woman doctor everybody is talking about?"
"Youre right, Mom. Seeya later..."
Notwithstanding Little Jacks familiarity with the Dr. Shannon Show, it was no better known to the country at large than the Sharon and Louise Show had been three weeks earlier. That was about to change.
To her credit, the host, Shannon Duwoniack, took a gracious back-seat to her guests, Attorney General Jack Fleetwood, Dr. Estelle Gidarb and Morris Blum, Chairman of the National Democratic Party. To his credit, Blum, a rotund, bearded man in his late sixties, took a back-seat to no one.
They sat at a semi-circular table; Jack and Estelle on the left side of the telewindow lens, Morris Blum and "Dr. Shannon" on the right.
"...Not true," said Estelle, continuing what was obviously a debate in progress. "I dont know where you get your figures, Mr. Blum, since our medical records are confidential and we have had no complications, nor have we received any complaints from our clients. In fact, weve performed the procedure hundreds of times in the past three years with a success rate of 100%. Do you have any idea what that means?
"I shudder to think," said Blum, getting a good laugh from the audience."
Estelle Gidarb smiled sweetly. "Surgery always carries with it some risks," she said, "but the simplicity of our procedure together with our extensive pre-processing and follow-up, has made it as safe and easy as a routine apentonsillectomy."
Kimberly noticed that her face colored a bit when she stumble over the word apendectomy. She didn't know why, but somehow, she thought that it was important.
Blum sat forward on his seat. "Lets assume, for the sake of argument, that youre right. Everybody who comes to a STOPIT clinic to get Gidarbed, comes away happy."
"They do," said Dr. Shannon.
"Yes," said Estelle. "What you have to understand is this: Our patients come to us the way you or I would go to a dentist with a painful tooth that we knew has to be extracted. When the extraction is complete, there may be a little soreness at first and some feeling of loss for having an empty place where a familiar part of us used to be. But that soon passes. The bad tooth that nearly drove us over the edge with pain, will bother us no more."
The audience applauded and a number of hands went up to be recognized to speak, while Blum shook his head.
Dr. Shannon pointed to a long-faced man in his late twenties or early thirties, "Yes, sir," she said, "Your name please, and where are you from?"
The man stood. "My name is Lawrence Torkelson from Battle Creek. First of all, Id like to say what an honor it is to be in the same room with Dr. Gidarb. I only wish Mr. Gidarb could have gotten away from work to be with us. Both of you were such an inspiration to me, I cant tell you how much I appreciate it. I think youre the greatest."
The man was rewarded for his words with hearty applause from the audience, and a smile, a nod and a thank you from Estelle Gidarb.
"I just want to say, I had the procedure eighteen months ago and I couldnt agree more with what Dr. Gidarb said about it. It was the best thing I ever did. I only wish it had been available when I was a self-abusing teenager. It would have saved me and my family a lot of grief. Thank you Dr. Gidarb. Thank you, thank you, thank you."
Another man stood and told a similar story and got a similar response.
He was followed by a young woman with a tearful story of being gang-raped by drunken fraternity brothers who forced her to perform unspeakable acts they saw in an X Channel T-window, before they decided to rape her. She urged that the Gidarb procedure be performed on rapists and potential rapists alike. She identified potential rapists as, anyone who derived pleasure from watching women being degraded, but elaborated no further on what she meant by "degraded." Everyone knew from recent news coverage, that the story was true in every respectexcept for the identity of the victim.
Estelle wished she could make the woman go away. She was an embarrassment to the STOPIT cause. Estelle might have figured her for a plant by the Democrats or some other lunatic-fringe group, had she not seen so many young women like her in her psychiatric practice. Such victims of crimes that werent committed against them were at least as numerous as confessed criminals who didnt commit the crimes they confessed to. Only these "victims" came to see her instead of the police. She wondered how many of her colleagues were getting people like that, but she didnt dare ask.
Fortunately for the guests and their embarrassed audience, another young woman, stood to tell how her marriage to a porn-addicted deviate of unspecified leanings, was saved by the Gidarb procedure. Then, an older woman spoke for her homosexual son in the same glowing terms.
When the applause for her died down, Blum said, "I wasnt going to argue the merits of the procedure. But if were going to do as Mr. Fleetwood here suggests, and mandate the procedure for certain classes of sex-offenders, whos going to pay for it?"
Jack Fleetwood turned to Blum and smiled, "Why Morris, when did you become a Republican?"
That got the biggest laugh of the hour.
The studio audience was packed with members and friends of STOPIT who laughed, applauded, jeered or otherwise expressed their feelings in all the places one would expect. The fact that a more balanced audience would have leant more credibility to the show, was not lost on the host.
"Because of our special guests," she said, "I know we have a number of new viewers who may have gotten the impression that STOPITs detractors were barred at the door. I assure you, all tickets to our shows are first come, first serve."
"That may be so," said Blum, "but how many people here are going to stand up for their Constitutional rights on a national telewindow broadcast which frames the issue in terms of, pornography: pro or con?"
The audience started jeering before Blum finished talking. He didnt seem to mind in the least. Once hed gone so far with his argument, every well-informed person in American knew where it would end. The Democrats were nothing if not predictable.
In the end of the last row of seats, a slim, dark-skinned, brown-eyed man of African extraction, with long, wavy, black African hair parted in the middle and brushed to the sides, slowly raised his hand.
"Not that one again," said Jack, to Blum. "And you wonder why the Democrats are called the Party of perverts."
Through a storm of whistles, applause and verbal pats on the back for Jack Fleetwood, Blum smilingly held out his Party pen and shouted into the wind of noise blowing against him, "Party of peace! Party of peace!"
Meanwhile, one of Dr. Shannons producers told her where to look for a hand raised in response to Blums question about Constitutional rights. It surprised her to see a black man alone in a sea of white faces; not that she cared about a mans color one way or another. Men were, at one extreme, feckless lap-dogs and at the other, savage animals, with precious few exceptions like Jack Fleetwood and Euel Gidarb in-between. If a woman expected little or nothing of value from a man, she experienced few if any disappointments.
She stood amid the continuing applause and pointed to the man in the back row. "You sir," she said, "in the blue-silver suit."
Few men sat in the audience, only one of whom was wearing a blue-silver suit. All eyes turned toward him and all ears followed as he stood and looked slowly from side to side.
"Your name, sir; and where are you from?"
"My name is Blue Monday. And Im from Detroit..."
The hearts of lonely, lusty women across America fluttered apprehensively with the first public view of their secret lover in Detroit. One of them was the wife of the attorney general of the State of Michigan.
The color drained from her face. "Oh, my God," she murmured. "Oh-my-God, oh-my-God, oh-my-God!" She stood and paced the floor, wringing her hands, her eyes riveted to the window. How can this be? Jack and Blue, together on national telewindows? No, it couldnt be; it couldnt!
In her sixteen years of marriage, Jack had given her a lovely home, a fine son and an enviable place in the American Party. In her two-week-old affair, Blue had seen to it that she received more sheer pleasure than any man ever had in her wildest fantasies. The romance novel fences shed built around her permissible thoughts were high, and close to the mores of middle America. That, by definition, left much room for expansion once the fences came down. Blue helped her take them down.
For the first time in her life she knew what it was to relish an "unthinkable" thought, to share an "unmentionable" secret, to skip naked through her empty house, and to feel the soaring joy of freedom. Now she knew what was buried deep in the psyches of everyone that made their own freedom so precious.
Kimberly had little fear that Blue would suddenly blurt out her name and the dirty details of their unusual sexual relationship. The thought did cross her mind, though, and remain in the background of her thoughts as a wordless feeling of anxiety. The possibility existed that Blue would say enough for Jack, or someone else, to put her in the picture with him. The more she thought about it, the more she realized she had good reason to worry.
After a brief exchange between Blue and the combined forces of Jack and Estelle, Dr. Shannon invited him on stage to take her seat next to Blum. To Kimberlys horror, he accepted the invitation and strode toward the platform unruffled by the raucous, fist-shaking jeers of the audience. The scene was like that of a 20th century wrestling match, with Blue cast in the role of the arrogant, costumed villain. Kimberly did not see his self-assurance as arrogance or the DZ cut of his sharkskin suit as a costume, but for those who didnt know him as she did, it would have been close enough.
Dr. Shannon motioned her new guest to take a seat. He did.
When the audience quieted down, Dr. Shannon, standing next to him with her hand on the back of the chair, said, "Mr. Blue"
"Mr. Monday," said Blue.
"Call me Blue,"
Nobody wanted to laugh with Blue at the hosts chagrin, but they did anyway. Blum snickered like a naughty school-boy whod just seen a prank played on the teacher. Even Jack and Estelle had to smile. Dr. Shannon forced a shaky smile of her own. She had no viable alternative.
"You were telling us," she said, "that pornography is the wrong word for what were discussing. What word would you use, Mr. Monday?"
"Id call it nosiness."
"Dont change the subject," said Jack.
"Right," said Estelle, "Smut by any name still stinks." She had to speak trough a burst of applause to finish the thought, "But if you want to call it something else, lets hear it."
"All right," said Blue, "How about officiousness?"
For those in the audience who knew what the word meant and for those who didnt, it was a response that warranted a choirs of boos.
"Come on," said Jack, "what kind of game are you playing with these non sequiturs? You were asked a polite, germane and straightforward question in response to your assertion that pornography was a misnomer. You have yet to reply in kind. Instead, you have been playing with words and jumping from one thing to the next to confuse the issue without discussing it."
"Not true," said Blue, after a long round of applause for Jack Fleetwood. "The word, pornography, is what confuses the issue. Its what the word "miscegenation" once did with the issue of interracial marriage. It imposes a negative value judgment on a sexual relationship between people, which can be arrived at only by an interloper. You say that the thing you want to sexually mutilate men for enjoying too much exists in the medium that delivers it. I say, its within the mind of the person who interprets it. It is not created for the purpose of offending anyone who would interpret it in an offensive way. To have a fair discussion of it, we need an objective word. Pornography is a word which agrees with people who dont want to see it and dont want anyone else to see it."
Bloom was visibly impressed, as was Jack and Dr. Shannon, though not in the same way. Estelles eyes became angry slits. "Regardless of how you try to justify that toxic filth, its affects go beyond the individual who watches it. Ive dealt with its victims. Ive been one of its victims."
Estelle Gidarbs passionate rebuttal brought a storm of applause so loud and long that she had to hold up her hands to quiet it. "As for your charge of sexual mutilation, its obvious that you dont know what youre talking about." With a finger jabbing the air for emphasis, she said, "Im a doctor. I relieve my patients of their suffering. I dont cause it. I perform surgery on my patients. I do not mutilate them."
This time Dr. Shannon had to step in to quiet the audience.
"Please," she said, "We have a lot of ground to cover and we dont have much time. So if you want to clap or shout or whatever, go ahead, but please keep it short."
Blum stoked his beard. "We all sympathize with you, Dr. Gidarb, but"
"Speak for yourself," said Blue. He looked directly at Estelle Gidarb. "I think youre dangerous. The fact that youre a psychiatrist and a surgeon makes you all the more dangerous."
Jack Fleetwood glared at Blue, "The man who resorts to personal insults to win his case, proves that he doesnt have much of a case."
"That sounds a little bit like a personal insult to me," said Blue. But I wont press the point..."
The meeting between Kimberlys husband and her lover, neither of whom knew about the woman they had in common, seemed so unlikely to have happened by chance that she never thought for an instant that it would happen.
"Lets get back to basics," said Dr. Shannon, turning to Blue. "You seem to think that sex is a harmless game that anybody should be allowed to play according to their own rules."
"Sex is a basic human drive," said Blue.
"Were all aware of that," said Dr. Shannon, "and nobody here is suggesting that theres anything wrong with normal feelings of sexual attraction and sexual arousal."
"Oh?" said Blum, "Then why do we discourage any form of sexual expression by our citizens with the strongest biological urge to act on it?"
"Because," said Estelle Gidarb, "youre talking about teen-age sex and adolescent sex, which is precisely the time they have to learn self-control. They have to learn how to say no to their normal sexual urges until they are prepared to handle the social and economic consequences. And they have to say no to abnormal substitutes like masturbation which can lead to life-long addictions, and homosexual actswhether they are performed within a homosexual or a heterosexual context. The acts themselves, apart from being abhorrent to most healthy-minded people, are a health hazard to the entire population, as the AIDS epidemic so clearly illustrated."
"If thats what AIDS showed us," said Blue, "Wouldnt that make lesbianism and masturbation the safest ways to go this side of total abstinence?"
"Thats preposterous," grumbled Estelle Gidarb, through a loud wave of boos and catcalls at Blues impertinent remark.
Dr. Shannon, bristling over the remark, said, "Mr. Monday, I specialize in treating deviant sexual orientation. It may help you to see the error in your thinking about female homosexualitywhich, by the way, many of my patients were forced into as an extension of their male partners pornographic fantasiesif you thought of where youd be if your mother had been a lesbian."
The audience reaction varied from, snickers to guffaws, to smiling applause, until Blue stopped them with, "I think she was. But its none of my business or anyone elses whether she was or not."
Jack Fleetwood broke the silence by saying, "The doctors are too polite to say so, Mr. Monday, but it sounds to me as though youve just told us where your liberal attitude comes from." He used the world "liberal" as though it were a diseased rodent he was holding at arms length with a long pair of tongs. The word itself was sufficient to make most people in the studio audience handle it that way in their minds.
All eyes turned toward Blum. He looked at Blue. "I didnt hear Mr. Monday say that he was a liberal."
In that one word was a declaration of opposition to New Economic Zones, the death penalty and the military as well as his support for people who claimed abortion and pornography as simple freedom of choice issues.
Blue was all for adults deciding for themselves whether or not to view most of the stuff the people in STOPIT called pornography. But he was pro military. He did not think that anything involving reproduction or the possibility of reproduction was a simple matter. And his views on abortion changed every other day.
On this day, he believed that abortion was the taking of a human life, whether it was done nine seconds or nine months after conception. He believed that he was incompetent to judge the stage of fetal development or the circumstances of pregnancy which would justify an abortion or a denial of one. He had even less faith in "pro-lifers" who presumed to speak for God and the unborn without considering the fact that the creation of life was, in itself, a sentence of death. But he also thought that they might be right, and that they had a moral obligation to say what they thought, regardless of who it upset and because of who it upset.
"No," he said. "I wouldnt call myself a liberal, except in the sense that I dont believe in the current practice of capital punishment for women who have abortions. And I believe that adults should be free to choose for themselves what is or isnt obscene material."
Kimberly saw Jack put his hand to his ear and smile broadly as a band running from right to left across the bottom of her T-window announced: "A BILL PASSED THIS MORNING IN THE MICHIGAN LEGISLATURE TO AUTHORIZE THE GIDARB PROCEDURE FOR CONVICTED RAPISTS AND PURVEYORS OF OBSCENE MATERIAL, HAS BEEN SIGNED INTO LAW BY THE GOVERNOR. THE NEW LAW TAKES EFFECT IMMEDIATELY."
Jack started to say something when his eyes widened and he shot a look at Blue as if seeing him for the first time. He gave a quick nod and stood as six uniformed state troopers rushed toward the stage with their weapons drawn. Jack pointed to Blue and said, "Officers, arrest that man."
Copyright © 1998 by Jasper Garrison
Contact the author: Jasper Garrison