All about me, bodies flew, skulls cracked, and the third-party movement wilted in pain. People bearing my masked likeness were spread across the floor. The Mennonites shivered in a corner as the police cut through the crowd like a knife through an open tub of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. My goodness. Were those Ewoks I saw running for the exit?
The city of Denver, I thought, was clearly losing its innocence.
I felt stern Arab-American hands grab me from behind.
“We have to run!” Nader hissed.
The police had nearly broken through to the stage now, and there appeared to be no clear escape for the father of consumer rights and myself. The Mercury Café, home to so many feminist rallies and solidarity potlucks, was about to be consumed by the unholy flames of domestic fascism.
A squat Klingon burst through the encroaching police line and removed his mask. He was massively built, almost irredeemably handsome, and, actually, quite amusing. His name, I later learned, was Christopher Dougherty, private first class, U.S. Army Rangers, Special Forces Division.
“I may be a Republican reactionary at heart,” he shouted. “But I’ll be goddamned if I’ll let a bunch of badly-trained stormtroopers walk all over our hard-won freedoms!”
With an unholy yell, Private Dougherty charged into the encroaching mess of cops. He kicked and punched, pinched and thrust. They fell to a man, grasping at him, but never exactly connecting. Nothing could stop Christopher Dougherty, All-American fighting machine. Nader and I saw a hole in the line, and darted through.
“In the name of advocacy, run!” he yelled.
A cop, the big one with the robot arm, produced a taser, lunged, and connected with Private Dougherty’s right wrist. Our defender sizzled briefly, and yelped in pain. He staggered, brought down two more cops, and collapsed into a platter of tabbouleh.
I saw stars, several of them. Former child stars, actually. Then I felt something wet on the back of my head. Then I blacked out.
I awoke after seemed like a week, or maybe two weeks. In fact, it was two minutes and 30 seconds. I was in a Dumpster, in an alley. Nader was next to me, seemingly asleep. Three men leaned in to look at us. They seemed proud and brave.
“Who… are… you?” I said with ellipses between each word.
“You have allies here,” said one of them, whose nametag read, “Matt Barker, Green Party delegate—Little Rock, Arkansas.”
“Yes,” said the bearded guy standing next to him. “Not everyone in Denver is with Mayor Webb, and certainly not me, Larry L. Carlile.”
The third man said, “that’s right, and the people of Fort Collins, Colorado, including myself, Alex Paozols, also support your struggle for freedom.”
Nader, who had been playing possum, said, “but how can we get out of here? I have a rally in North Dakota on Tuesday.”
From above, we heard a faint buzz, which grew louder, until it was a well-oiled roar. An airplane!
The plane puffed and feinted, did a 360 loop, and seemed to stop in mid-air and swoop down onto the pavement. I had never seen an airplane land in an alley before, but it was as though this pilot had maneuvered far more difficult arrangements in his time.
On one side of this magical plane I saw written the words, “Valium Airlines.” On the other, the slogan, “We Stay Up Longer.” From the cockpit emerged a man who, from the moment I saw him, I knew was obviously a genius.
“I am Richard Schein of the Civil Air Patrol!” he said. “But you can call me Captain Rick.”
“OK,” I said.
“Would you like an M.R.E.?” he asked.
“What’s that?” said Matt Barker, of Little Rock, Arkansas.
“A Meal Ready to Eat,” said Captain Rick. “Prepared by the Air Force during Vietnam.” He reached into a canvas bag. “Let’s see… I have Beef Stew, Omelet with Ham, Veal Stroganoff…”
“Yummy!” Ralph Nader said. “I’m starving!”
In the near distance, we heard explosions, and smoke could be smelt.
“Time to fly,” said Captain Rick.
“Where are we going?” asked our next President.
“Well,” said the Captain, “I thought we could spend the holiday at my house in the mountains, drink some Scotch, and play some pinball.”
That sounded great.
As Valium Airlines ascended from the alley, Matt Barker, Larry L. Carlile, and Alex Paozols all saluted. I know that someday, I will see those noble patriots again.
Captain Rick did a loop around Denver. All about was chaos. Mayor Webb had dispatched his soldiers to quell uprisings around the city, which was in flames. Near Washington Park, I saw a lone citizen clutching two shopping bags, standing in front of a tank. He was the living symbol of resistance against oppression. The martyrs of Denver, including him, shall never be forgotten.
The Captain made one more run by the Mercury Café. Sure enough, we saw Darth Webb in front, shaking his lead officer by the lapel. We couldn’t hear him from the air, but he was probably saying something like:
“How could you let them get away? You fool!”
We buzzed him close, and I let him get a good look at my face. Nader just laughed and ate his omelet with ham.
“I’ll get you, Pollack!” shouted Mayor Webb. “I’ll get you next time!”
As Captain Rick turned the plane west toward the mountain, I gritted my teeth and felt revenge in my platelets.
“Oh no, Mayor Webb,” I said quietly. “Next time, you’re mine.”