Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Visitor

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I woke up in the middle of the night. Something had disturbed my sleep, but I didn't know what it was. I did know, however, that I was thirsty, so I slid quietly out of bed and padded down the hall to the kitchen for a glass of ice water.

What I discovered there shocked me fully awake. There was a man sitting at the kitchen table. He had my cell phone open in one hand and was writing something down on a pad with the other.

"Hey!" I said. "What the heck..."

He held up his index finger in a "wait a minute" gesture and finished what he was writing. When he was done, he snapped my cell phone closed. He stood up and extended a hand. "Agent, ah...Smith," he said. "Yeah. Smith. National Security Agency."

"What?!" I yelled. The dog, who was lying over in one corner, raised his head, looked at me crossly, then lay back down. "I'll deal with you later," I muttered to him. I turned back to "Smith."

"What are you doing in my house?" I demanded. "And why were you looking at my cell phone?"

"All part of the Global War on Terror, sir," he said smoothly. "We're collecting all the numbers you've called for our database. Oh, and the numbers of everyone who's called you." I started to say something, but he raised a hand. "Don't worry," he said, "we're not listening to the calls. Not yet, at least. We're just, ah, looking for patterns. Yeah, that's it. Patterns."

"Do you have a warrant for this sort of thing?" I demanded.

He shook his head. He pulled an index card from his pocket. "September 11th," he read in a bored voice. "We are at war. There are bad people out there who want to kill us. Et cetera." He put the card back in his pocket.

"That's not an answer!" I sputtered. I paused. "Wait a minute. I thought you guys used big computers for this sort of thing."

He sighed. "They're down. Blue Screens of Death as far as the eye can see. I told them not to use Windows," he muttered. "But did they listen? Oh, no. So now we're doing it all by hand until the computer guy comes back from visiting his Mom in Sarasota." He wandered over to the pantry and opened it. He began rummaging through the cereal boxes.

"Cut that out!" I hollered.

"War. Bad people. Want to kill us," he muttered absently.

"What are you doing now?" I said.

"Like I said," he replied, "Looking for patterns. You never know. Somebody in our database might like the same kind of breakfast cereal as Osama bin Laden. You got any Fruit Loops?"

"Terrorists like Fruit Loops?"

"No, but I do. And I'm getting hungry."

"Get out!" I yelled.

He straightened up and his eyes narrowed. "Hey," he said suspiciously, "Why are you so upset about this? You don't have something to hide, do you? Why don't you want us to know the phone numbers of everyone you've called? Remember, we're..."

"In a war with bad people who want to kill us," I said wearily. "Yeah. I get it. And why," I asked, "do they want to kill us?"

"That's easy," he said, "they hate our freedom."

"And what freedom is that?" I asked.

He stopped and looked confused. "Ummm...you know, freedom. Being free."

"Free from what?"

He looked even more confused. "Ahhh...from not being free?"

"How about freedom from unreasonable searches? How about freedom from having the government poke around in your private life just so they can maybe, if they get really lucky, figure out some kind of ill-defined 'pattern"?"

"War!" he said desperately. "Bad people! Kill us!"

"Right," I said. "And the program is only targeted against terrorists, right?"

He settled down a little. "Right."

"And who decides who the terrorists are?"

He looked smug. "The President, of course."

"Well, that's the problem, isn't it? Only the President and his crew get to decide who's a terrorist, terrorist sympathizer, terrorist supporter, or whatever."

"And what's wrong with that?"

"Well, their definition is pretty broad. At one point, the Secretary of Education described the National Education Association as a terrorist organization. They've repeatedly claimed that anyone who disagrees with their foreign policy is aiding the enemy. And, last I heard, they're wiretapping journalists, so I guess they're 'terrorists' too." I shook my head. "Any administration this careless with language shouldn't get to make the definitions. Not without adult supervision, at least." I walked over to the pantry and pulled out a box. "Here's a Pop Tart. Now scram."

"You haven't heard the last of this," he snarled as he headed for the door. "We've got a list. And you just made it."

"And you just took a Pop Tart from someone on the list, Chuckles," I said. "Where does that leave you?"

He had a stricken look on his face as I closed the door on him. But he still took the Pop Tart.

6 comments:

anne frasier said...

that was great.

Rob Anderson said...

Funny stuff, sir. And too true.

LongHairedWeirdo said...

Beautifully done, my friend... the pop tart was the icing on the cake.

For The Trees said...

You, Sir, have a large and accurate hammer - you KNOW how to nail something down in one or two blows. THAT'S good writing. No wonder I read this blog.

Well, why haven't you posted for Monday? And it's 1:19 a.m. CDT in Texas...where the hell is Tuesday's post? What is this? You on vacation or something? If you're gonna do a blog, make it at LEAST every day, otherwise the small minds who read it will get pissed if their addiction to your words isn't satiated daily.

Thanks for a Great Blog. More, please. No, at YOUR leisure.

JD Rhoades said...

Thanks, FTT! Stuff like that keeps me going.

Cornelia Read said...

THANK YOU for this!!