“A coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero only one.”
* * *
Outside the thunder rolled. Mighty winds roared. Sheets of lightning, like brilliant strobes of light, intermittently blasted the gloom, exposing the horror of darkness gathered above.
It was an ominous and savage scene. Caught unawares, we bolted and ran for cover to the fragile safety of a nearby tool shed. We were children then.
This past week’s news was grim. Like lightning, Afghanistan unraveled faster than a Saturday night Las Vegas wedding. Fears both real and imagined struck terror and paranoia into multitudes. In panic and desperation, they ran for cover from the impending storm. Leadership failed and fled, vanishing like frightened children into the nearest tool shed for cover.
Meanwhile, our Homeland burns, withers and floods. Leadership vanished, running for cover. One to China, the other holed up in the safety of his own retreat. Befuddled and clueless, he fiddles his violin to the tune, ‘Over the Rainbow’ while watching reruns from The Apprentice.
He suddenly stops, listens, and is troubled by the commotion outside. He asks his valet, “What’s all that noise?”
“It’s appears a vast multitude has gathered, a multitude of vacuous words, your words, all garnered from the past, Boss. They have returned for a visit.”
It was bound to happen, he thought. His words were enemies, always in relentless pursuit, stalking him like rabid dogs, a vigilante posse, while ahead lay a barren wasteland littered with the blanched bones of other politicians ambushed by their empty words uttered while avoiding confrontation.
“What’s all that hammering and shouting about?”
“They’re building a giant scaffold, Boss. It resembles the gallows.”
“Is it a movie set for me?”
“Maybe. Looks like they’re planning a lynching. Come take a look.” He tiptoes over to the window, peeks out. He’s shaken by the scene.
“My heavens, so many angry words. I don’t recognize all of them, but some are familiar. Why are they here?”
“Well, Boss, you know, we have to give account for all the hollow words we speak. It’s the law of life. Don’t the Catholics teach that?”
“I vaguely recall. But Providence gives politicians special speaking privileges. We are allowed to speak out of both corners of our mouth.”
“That might be the problem here, Boss.”
“I need a mental health day. Maybe a nap. Cover me up with that blanket.”
He sleeps amid the tumult outside. He dreams, sees the gallows, dark and foreboding. A noose hangs loosely, blowing in the wind. The words shout, “You can run but you can’t hide.” He’s trapped. The noose slips silently around his neck. “Will my own words finally string me up?” he cries.
His life passes before him, remembering how he made lies his refuge, and now he cowers beneath the covers of falsehoods. He curls up in a fetal position mentally and physically, hoping the storm will soon pass. Its intensity grows.
“Wake up Boss. It’s getting ugly out there. The words are demanding retributive justice. Lay low. buy some time, develop a plan. Throw them a bone or two, some feel-good bromides to distract them. You’re good at that. Blame Donald again.”
“Good idea. Get Pelligrino and Smucker on the line. They’re smarmy pols, experts in the art of manipulating the masses with duplicitous claims to keep up appearances of probity. We need a narrative, a new conversation about something. Covid, border crisis, China, crime, voter suppression, BLM, CRT. Plenty to choose from.”
“No luck, Boss, they’re hiding, MIA. Looks like you’re on our own. Maybe Sherman was right: ‘Never give reasons for what you think or do until you must. Maybe after a while a better reason will pop into your head.’”
“Yes, yes, delay, delay.” But his spirit squirms in turmoil. Fear assaults him. Phantasmagorical images fill his mind. He sees a legacy littered with blood-thirsty journalistic jihadists with poison pens and pompous pundits making his life a tragicomedy while the world laughs at his failure.
He peers from the window again. Torches are being lit; his safety is breached; his tool shed is surrounded. The words outside mean business. He regrets some comments, those stupid, thoughtless gaffes so casually uttered in arrogance.
Somewhere in the recesses of his mind he hears a line from the poet Coleridge, wondering if this is the last nail in his legacy:
“Mid the tumult Kubla heard from far,
ancestral voices prophesying war.”
Outside the words are restless. A drum roll is heard. “Is that for me?” he asks.
“Yes, sir, I think they’re coming for you. Like the ghost of Jacob Marley, Jim Crow is leading the pack. Good luck, Boss.”
* * *
Outside the rain pours, the mighty wind roars and the thunder rolls unabated.
August 25, 2021