Copyright 1985, 1986 by Gregory S. Swann. All Rights Reserved. Direct inquiries to CIS I.D

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Copyright 1985, 1986 by Gregory S. Swann. All Rights Reserved. Direct inquiries to CIS I.D. 75115,1341. ___________________________________________________________________________ I Was a Captive of the Goon Squad... ...Until I Learned My Lesson I--Goon Premises "Pets are people, too!," Bellomania shouted, waving a fist for the assembled cameras. In her other hand, she lovingly treasured a grenade. "Animal rights are more important than human rights," Jus' Den said gently. He gave a gentle smile, underscoring the fact that his Uzi submachinegun was pointed at none of the hostages. Eduardo just looked bored. He had his thumbs hooked into the sides of his bandoliers. ARRGH! =Why= do I live in this rotten city...? You try to be a good neighbor. To be a helpful friend of friends in need. To make it at least a little easier to live in the world's largest 'Skinner Box'... And what do you get? Abuse. Delays. Belligerent indifference. And, if you're really having a bad week... you get kidnapped by the Goon Sqaud. Ah, well... Self-pity is a car without an engine. Words heal: what happened was this: I was looking after my neighbor's dog during his vacation. I'm not a dog fancier, but it didn't turn out to be too bad. Actually, the dog was more consistent intellectually than most of the people I meet. =Loads= more consistent than the Goons. 'Eat' and 'cuddle' are not really big ideas, but at least the dog didn't try to eat the cuddler... Anyway, during the work-day I was boarding the mutt with a dog-walking agency near where I live. It was while dropping him off there one morning that I got trapped in the Goon Squad seige. The Goons were holding the pets and dog-walkers hostage in the name of 'animal rights'. Also, judging from the assembled crowd of reporters, cameramen, and other media luminaries, in the name of publicity. The Goon Squad calls itself a terrorist group. I'm not certain this is so: while Goon Squad victims are always petrified, the response to the Goonies' milquetoast militance seems to result more from habit than fear. ...I don't know that there is anything uglier than habitual fear... What =could= be more repulsive than the self-abasing supplication demanded by the Goons? ...the Goons, I guess. But I'll leave it to the college boys to sort out; I'm a teller of tales, not a retailer of entrails. "We de=mand= compassion," said Eduardo in his grating whine. His voice sounded like the geographic midpoint between Riverdzale and Kew Gawdens, the voice of an insecure Bar Mitvah boy spoken with the authority of an imaptient dowager. He slumped in his blue suit, which clashed badly with the bandoleirs. And my guess is that the yarmulke was affixed to his bald head with Dentu-Grip. "We must have the =de=cency to put animals first, even if it kills us!" Believe it or not, some of the dog-walking hostages cheered. The dogs looked confused, as not-eating, not-cuddling dogs always do. "If elected," bellowed Bellomania, "I will move quickly to implement the Pet-Food Stamps program!" Bellomania looked like a pathological librarian: thin and genderlessly dressed, a strident bird's-beak nose propping up a pair of high-tech specs. "I will =ban= all medical research that makes use of cute and cuddly animals! I will enforce the 'Bill of Animal Rights' to the exclusion of all other rights!" More cheering. I guess it would be bad enough if they were cheering at a meeting or rally, where they could pretend not to understand just what that sort of statement means. But to cheer one's own kidnappers...? I think this is known as the 'Stockholm Syndrome'. "We gotta have =feel=ing," Jus' Den said gently. "We have to reach for the understanding of our cute and cuddly little friends." Jus' Den was a demure, dapper black man. His gentle smile was infectious, if slightly confused, and his diffident manner suggested the calm efficiency of a first-rate =major domo=. "So, remember, vote Jus' Den for Mayor. Jus' remember the D. That's D for Democrat and D for Jus' Den." "Gawd," said Eduardo. "Would you stop it with the 'Step 'n' fetchit' routine...!" "Would you rather have a 'watusi warrior'?," Jus' Den asked gently. Bellomania laughed vindictively. I tapped my toe impatiently. Being held hostage at gunpoint is almost as bad as trying to withdraw money from the bank. Maybe even worse. I said to Eduardo: "Nice shoes." "Thanks..." "French Shriner?" "Lloyd and Haig," he beamed. "Only seventy-eight fifty!" "!", I said. "Top-grain cowhide, right?" Eduardo nodded. "Do you mourn the cow?" Eduardo looked petulantly confused. Just then a mosquito alighted on Bellomania. She slapped it non-chalantly, as if she'd had a lot of practice. Scratch one claimant to natural rights... I asked her: "Did you kill it because it doesn't need food stamps?" "...?" "Save the animals, except for pesky insects, right...?" "Why you...!" "And broccoli," I continued. "And yogurt cultures... Question: do we also save the rats...?" "I don't know =what= you're talking about!," bellowed Bellomania. "I thought as much..." Jus' Den was fingering a souvenir rabbit's foot. I said: "Is the rabbit now on crutches...?" Jus' Den just smiled gently. "Grab him!," Eduardo said to Jus' Den. "Shut him up! He's ruining my effect!" "=Your= effect?," sneered Bellomania. "Who suggested this raid, anyway?" "Yeah?," said Eduardo. "Well, who got all these cameras to show up? You may be the pin-up girl of the Stoics for Habitual Apathy, but these guys aren't here to capture your good looks!" Eduardo patted his bandoliers, smiling at Bellomania's scowl. The flash-guns erupted spasmodically. "Jus' remeber D," said Jus' Den. "D for Democrat, and D for Jus'--" "Hey!," said Bellomania. "We're going to be late to that apartment bashing!" "Oy!," said Eduardo. He began to scurry about the room, collecting guns, grenades and other unfriendly artifacts. "Remember," he shouted at the reporters, "the Goon Squad stands for animal rights! The Goonies will kill anyone who doesn't respect the rights of animals!" =More= cheering! Some people de=serve= to be held hostage... "Eddie," said Bellomania saccharinely, "didn't we agree to take insurance?" "That's right!," said Eduardo. "We need a hostage! Who volunteers to be a hostage?" The dog-walkers knew whose rights to respect: they all pointed at me. "Cuff him, Denny." Jus' Den gently chained my wrists together. Bellomania looked at the bond oddly, with a nefarious glint in her eyes. "Now, remember," Eduardo lectured, "try to follow us, and this guy gets it!" As they hustled me out, Jus' Den called out, over his shoulder, "Be kind to animals!" Inside, the dog-walkers cheered. II--Goon Practice "GREECH!," screamed the Bag Thing three seats down. Eduardo tossed it another quarter. "GREECH!" The subway car was dark. Dark like a jungle at night, with strange smells and sounds embellishing the syncopated tattoo of grim foreboding. The Goon Squad had scurried me off to the subway, en route to their next act of tepid terrorism. They'd slammed me into one of the graffitoed bench seats, then bald Eduardo and dapper Jus' Den squeezed in on either side of me. In the name of sexual equality, Bellomania stood. She had Jus' Den's Uzi submachinegun trained on my groin. Under the circumstances, I thought it wise to sit still. "GREEECH!!" Eduardo chuckled gleefully. He tossed another quarter at the Bag Thing. It caught the coin in mid-air. Almost as soon as the grimy train had pulled out of the station, it stopped again. The lights went out. The fans ground to a halt--which is only three RPM's slower than normal. "GREECH!" Being stuck in the dark is bad enough. Being stuck in the dark in New York's filthy subway is really terrible. But being stuck in the dark in the subway with the Goon Squad, their shock troops and co-conspirators... well, that's just about as bad as things can get. "GRAUCH!!," screamed the Bag Thing, questing for the bottom of Eduardo's pockets. It snatched another quarter out of the imponderable spaces. At the other end of the car some schoolpunks were smashing beer bottles on the floor of the car. One of them, dancing to the beat of a blaring radio, spun out and grabbed at the steel 'straps'. He swung up like a Human Chimp, swinging back and forth, with his feet toward the windows of the car. When he'd gained enough velocity, he shot his feet out, so that they hit the glass at the bottom of his swing. Crash! Out burst the top pane. He swing back, then slammed forward again. Crash! Out burst the bottom pane. Eduardo clapped joyously. Bellomania looked quietly pleased. Jus' Den stared disgustedly at his shoes. The Human Chimp swung sideways to the next set of 'straps' and took out another pair of windows. Some of the passengers were brushing glass shards from their hair and clothing, but they didn't complain. They didn't dare... "GREECH!!" Across from me, a junkie was picking at her pus-encrusted scabs... Next to her, a shirtless man was brazenly scratching his armpit. By olfactory evidence, it needed scratching. Next to him, a gum-popping young girl was polishing her nails. The ordinarily nauseating smell of nail polish was welcome in the presence of the shirtless man... And so on, down the line... The scruffy-wailing children whining for the attention of their glassy-eyed parents. The tin-cup evangelists preaching the power of god and money. The wino wailing over his spilled Tokay... "The subway is the city's lifeblood!," said Eduardo. "...the city has blood disease," I mumbled. "Right!," bellowed Bellomania. "And, if elected, I promise to make it worse!" "...'make it worse'...?" "The subway is the battleground of egalitarianism!," Bellomania seethed. "Now matter how much wealth or comfort we have outside, =here= we are all equal!" "GREECH!!," the Bag Thing agreed. "A sound transportation policy," she continued, "will result in even =greater= equality!" I looked around the unmoving subway car. "...I guess we =are= all equal... None of us is getting anywhere..." "=I= take credit for that!," Eduardo puffed. "...?" I scratched my head. "'Making things worse', huh...? =Why?=" "In the name of equality for =all=!," Bellomania bellowed. "To equalize the injustice," Jus' Den said gently. "C'mon!," said Eduardo. "We're all adults here! We're doing it to get votes, of course!" Deep breath. "People =vote= for you in order to have things made worse?" Eduardo hooked his thumbs in his bandoliers. "Goonies do..." "Just who are these Goons, anyway? The only names I see in the papers are yours... Are there other members of the Goon Squad?" "=Mill=ions!," Bellomania said lovingly. Eduardo said, "There are thousands of votes in the subways alone..." "Subway riders vote to have things made worse...?" "Not =riders=," said Eduardo. "Subway em=ploy=ees! Thrity-five thousand a year isn't bad for doing =some=thing. But thirty-five thousand for doing =noth=ing? Well, the Mayor who can deliver that is a proven vote getter!" His lapel pattings made it clear he was speaking of himself. "What do you =mean=, doing 'nothing'!?!," Bellomania demanded. "Do you think it's easy to lean on a mop all day? With only three hours for breaks? Subway workers are the hardest-working government employees!" I said: "That's true..." "And what about the lightbulb-changing crews?," she continued. "Would =you= want that job?!?" "By the way," I asked, "how many subway workers =does= is take to change a lightbulb...?" "None of you [umph!]ing business!," Eduardo shouted. "GRREEECH!!!" The Bag Thing had good reason to scream. There was a wrenching sound of metal tearing, then one of the doors of the car was ripped away. In the gaping hole stood a tall, imposing black man. He had mean, glaring eyes, and his hair was cut in a mohawk. His chest was armored in gold chains; enough chains for every drunk at =The New York Times= with some left over. "Come on!," he boomed to the Goon Squad. "We're late! And I pity the foo' that make me late!" The big man crouched over and let Jus' Den climb up on his broad back. Then he dumped the demure little black man and let Eduardo take his place. Bellomania grabbed me by the handcuffs and dragged me backwards into the gloomy depths of the subway tunnel. The Human Chimp smashed out another pair of windows. The Bag Thing called after us: "GRAACH!" III--Goon Destiny Flash, Flash. Pop, pop. The photographers were gulping down shots of Eduardo, nebbish and Goon Squad commando, with his arm around the imposing black man. "And we owe it all to Mr. T, here," he whined. "He's the one who showed us how to get along with people!" Flash, flash. Pop, pop. "In our fight for equality!," seethed stern Bellomania. "Remember," said demure little Jus' Den, "that's D for Democrat and D for Jus' Den." We were assembled in the hallway of a tenement. Earlier, 'Mr. T' (I assume that's an alias) had kicked in the door to the landlord's apartment. With a lot of physical abuse from Mr. T, and a lot of verbal abuse from Eduardo and Bellomania, and a short spelling lesson from Jus' Den, the landlord had agreed to cease his unfair and anti-egalitarian discrimination against cats with cataracts. Moreover, he'd agreed to burn down his building and move to Florida, which policy Eduardo heartily endorsed. The Head Goon made a speech about housing clutter and the beauty of unspoiled, egalitarian, pet-protecting nature. You could tell he really had his heart in it. By then, he was busily elbowing Bellomania out of the photos. She got revenge by elbowing out Jus' Den. Mr. T stood by like a gilded totem pole. As the press was departing, I said to Eduardo: "'Making things worse', right?" "You bet!", he said, removing his bandoliers. "Just think of how =bad= it'll be for the people who live here, when the building burns down!" "You =want= them to suffer like that...?" "Well, sure! I mean, how can we =help= them if they don't suffer?" "...?" Eduardo was exasperated. "If they don't suffer, then we can't help them. And if we can't help them, then they have no good reason to vote Goon... So we help them suffer, then they vote Goon every time!" He cackled. "...'help them suffer'...?" Eduardo nodded sagely. "By 'making things worse'...?" Another nod. Ick. "What kind of a monster =are= you?" "=I=," Eduardo said defensively, "am the best Mayor New York ever had!" "But I intend to be better!," shouted Bellomania. "Me too!," said Jus' Den. Deep breath. "What do you hope to gain by this...?" Jus' Den: "Justice!" Bellomania: "Equality!" Eduardo: "Power!" There was an evil glint in his eyes. "...zero...," I said, sighing. I guess I've known that for a long time. "That man. That landlord... He's a tax-payer, right?" "Anti-Goon," Eduardo said. "What?" "He votes anti-Goon. You don't think I'd terrorize him without checking his registration, do you?" "Still," I said, "he's a tax=pay=er. And he took the risk of owning a building, in spite of all the worse-making you've already done to dissuade him..." "Yeah," Eduardo sneered. "What an idiot!" I counted ten to calm myself. "...well, he finally got wise... What are you going to do when the last of the 'anti-Goons' decide they can live without being called the 'equals' of their demonstrated inferiors...?" Eduardo smiled smugly. "I don't think that will happen between now and the election." "Is that as far ahead as you can see?!" I try to keep my emotions out of these things, but I was provoked. "What's the point of looking any further?" Eduardo looked confused. Bellomania was knowingly confident. Jus' Den wore his usual placid smile. "...for a Goon...? I guess there isn't any..." "Hey!," yelled Bellomania. "Don't make fun of the Goon Squad! It's =never= safe to make fun of the Goonies." "...and why is that...?" "Because the Goons," Eduardo cackled, "are =ev=erywhere!" He laughed diabolically. "Hmmm," I said. "You never did tell me who the Goons are..." "The Goons are making things worse!," Bellomania exulted. "You said that." "No!," she said, flustering. "I mean the Goonies are the people who are making things worse. When you see someone making something worse, that's a Goon!" Jus' Den said, "If you see a man taking a leak in the subway, that's a Goon!" "And people who spit on the sidewalks," said Eduardo. "They're all Goons!" "And the wonderfully creative graffitti artists," enthused Bellomania. "They're Goons, too!" Jus' Den: "Screamers..." Bellomania: "Bottle smashers..." Eduardo: "People who don't bathe!" "Yes," mused Bellomania, "they make great Goons..." "People who get thrills from seeing accidents!," Eduardo continued. "People who deliberately =cause= accidents! People who destroy buses and park benches and housing projects... They're all Goons." "And great Goons they are!," said Jus' Den with a gentle smile. I said: "...and people who put decent citizens in chains...?" "Hey!," said Eduardo. "They sound like true Goonies. Where do we find them?" Deep breath. "Right here, you moron! I'm talking about you!" I spun around to show him my still hand-cuffed wrists. "Watch what you call me! =Do you know who I am?!?=" I was trying to decide =what= he was. "...just tell me what I have to do to get out of these chains." There was a silent consultation among the three of them. Bellomania's eyes glared vindictively. Jus' Den's looked soft and dreamy; he looked upon me like he might look at a bug trapped in a 'Roach Motel'. Eduardo looked pensive, half doubtful. "I'll do anything I can!," I said. "I'll do =ev=erything I can to make things worse! After this, I think I'll enjoy it..." "What will you do?!," grilled Eduardo. "I'll leave the city!," I replied. "I'll never again contaminate New York with my productive labor or my tax dollars!" "Hmm. What else?" "I won't even come back to visit! I'll spend my tourism dollars in Boston or Albuquerque!" "What else?" Bellomania said, "I think we should make him write on the walls. 'I will not make things better', five hundred times." "Aw, c'mon," said Jus' Den. "Let the man go!" "You're too soft!," Bellomania bellowed. "Ed, I =told= you he was too soft to be a Goon! I think we should kick him out!" "Kid me, Carol," said Eduardo. "You just want his votes and you know it. Besides, Denny's doing his part to make things worse. He's getting me re-elected, isn't he...?" He smiled sweetly. Bellomania ground her jaws together. Hard. Eduardo came up behind me and loosed the cuffs. "Don't forget, Buster. Out of town by sundown, or we really make it bad for you." Mr. T broke his totem pole pose. He said: "I pity the foo' that don't do what the Mayor say! I break his head in!" I guess that's what a New Yorker is, at bottom: a pitied fool who deserves to have his head broken in. That's why I don't intend to remain one. And I'll be doing my part to make things worse, too, just like the Mayor and his Goon Squad want... =Willie!= _-_ # # # @ @ # {# ( ) #} | #"# | ##^## ###

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