So Iran finally lost it and threw a tantrum. A bad one, sinking several US and British ships in the Straits of Hormuz. Lobbing a couple nukes at Israel – turns out they were working on them the whole time, the sneaky bastards. Big chunks or Tel Aviv are no more, and of course the Jews reacted by leveling most Iranian cities and military installations with some atomic fun of their own without even asking the Americans for permission.
Lily and Rulo had been so busy being together the day before, they never thought of turning the news on, and R’s place was pretty isolated. Lily heard the news as she was driving away in the morning, and made a u-turn. Rulo heard her news with a worried face and turned on National Public Radio.
– You should still have gone shopping. For rice, gas, and canned goods. That’s the first thing you want to do in a war, a coup, a hurricane.
– Oh… do you want to go now?
– Nah, I was just saying. I’m prepared already. But you realize this is a major fuck up.
– I realize that.
– This won’t be one like Irak or Afghanistan, that you can watch on TV, turn on and off at will. This is a large one, and it will affect us all in ways big and small. For one thing, there will be a formal declaration of war, and a draft is sure to follow. This country is already pouring its wealth in the desert as it is, and wealth is not infinite. Wealth runs out. Strength runs out. Right now, we’re out of volunteer soldiers too desperate to take the job, for instance, and we’ll need a few hundred thousand soon… so in the next few days I expect a draft of every able bodied 18-to-22 yr old… good thing Jack is still a child… and has dual citizenship…
– So this affects a lot of stuff, right…
– Well, in the case of oil, about 40% of world supplies have been cut off. That’s the amount that has to go through Hormuz on a daily basis. And who knows how long this will last. My bet is that the Iranians used Chinese Silkworm missiles there, very cheap, very accurate – at its narrowest, the pass is only a few kilometers wide, with many nooks and crannies along the coast to harass traffic for many months. Silkworms, mines and suicide fast boats is all it’ll take to keep the Straits closed, no matter if the rest of the country is turned into an ashtray, which is no doubt happening as we speak. The other thing is, the mullahs in power surely calculated the Israeli and American response and have their assetts well hidden in bunkers and hideaways, are probably ready to wage a long war, have allies in the region, know we are weak and bogged down in Irak, where their Shi’ite militias will start harassing us to prevent us from turning our attention towards them, they surely have underground cells ready to go into action in European and American cities… they’ve been preparing for this for a long time… it’s their moment of truth… this will go on and on and on. The other thing is, I hope you were savvy with your investments and stuff. The first consequence of this will be a meltdown as soon as the markets reopen, and massive inflation. Paper fortunes will be lost. Precious metals, foreign currency, drums of gasoline, shotgun shells and canned goods are the place to be right now.
– So worried. Let me call home.
– Breathe, Lily. Breathe before talking to him. Otherwise he’ll feel it in your voice that you’re afraid. Listen, look at me. Look at me for a sec. One second, Lily. We’ve got this. This shit will change many things in the future, and there’s a lot we’ll have to figure out soon. Prices will shoot up, travel will be a lot less easy, we’ll see where all this takes us. But right now, this minute, there’s nothing we can do except be ourselves, keep our wits about us, and not freak out. OK? You call him, I’ll go online inside and try to change the date of your flight back for ASAP, OK?
– Cheers, R… you scored a big one with me just now. You do that, I’ll call… you don’t reckon it will be a problem to get to the airport, do you?
– No, I don’t. Not this early in the conflict. I think gas will be hard to come by pretty soon. The local stations are probably out already. Panic buying, you know. But not to worry, I have enough stashed away to take you to the airport.
The darkness and the glow of the city to the East, the big bonfire and the dying embers of the other fire where the hog roasted, the Christmas lights and plastic skulls, the sound system on the bed of an old Ford F150, the rough boards on 200-liter drums making tables, the pack of children running wild in and out of the light, mindful of their own games of cops and robbers – brown kids, white kids, black kids. A white, redheaded boy has pulled out a Victorinox knife from his pocket and is showing something to a couple of Mexican, brown kids: he’s doing something to the hog’s head, poking its eyes or something, and talking about what he’s doing. The others laugh and ask questions and say their stuff, too. The three are having an animated, fast conversation in Spanish and they never realize Lily is looking at them. One of them is munching on some meat left on a big bone, a rib probably, as he listens to the stories told by the others. Their faces glisten from pig fat smeared all over, and they have tried to war-paint them with burnt sticks and mud. The effect is ghastly. Lily listens to their talk, and it doesn’t mean a thing to her, she just hears the music in the words and looks at the faces, the tricks the light of the fire plays on them, the big, dark eyes and cruel expressions. They are now torturing some little thing they’ve found, a lizard or a frog.
[The first rocket, ironically, hit a Muslim area, Old Jaffa, and obliterated it, but the effects of the blast were much wider. Thermal rays ignited anything combustible within a wide radius, melted tile and glass and demolished buildings all over the Beach zone, Ben Yehuda, Dizengoff, past Ayalon Hwy – the bus station burned, the hostels burned, the trees along the downtown streets, the Bauhaus buildings burned. Intense thermal heat emitted by the fireball caused severe burns and loss of eyesight as far as Petah Tikva and Ben Gurion airport.]
The Mexicans have made some sort of makeshift altar for honoring their dead, a Virgen de Guadalupe is there, a lot of candles, candy and food offerings, traditional sugar skulls and sweet bread skeletons. A San La Muerte, Saint Death – they have millenia of death cults in their genes, they were sacrificing prisoners and collecting skulls in niches in their pyramids centuries before Cortez and the Spanish Conquistadors. Some of the women are praying the rosary, some of the men are drunk and very loud, families are dancing and laughing, eating and talking.
Just as Lily is ready to turn around and join the English-speaking group drinking beer and sitting at one of the tables, Raúl sneaks in behind her and hugs her from behind. She’s so much shorter than him, she feels like some kind of warm wall has somehow appeared and embraced her. He smells of roast pig and smoke, with a trace of the morning’s aftershave and his own indescribable scent. He smells her hair and her neck, as he always does. The spot in the back of her neck where the hair starts is his favorite. The smell, but also how the white of the neck suddently gives way to the red of the hair. He can’t see that now, though, it’s too dark, so he drinks in the smell for a while.
– O’Higgins… I was wondering where you were. Looking at the little rascals, I see. A scene straight out of “Lord of the Flies”, remember that one?
– Remind me, Deschamps.
– Group of schoolboys suffer an accident en route to somewhere, and end up on a desert island. All adults are killed. At first, a semblance of civility, a patina of civilzation is maintained. Later, as starvation becomes a reality, the stronger boys become hunters and set the new rules. The rules we have lived with for many thousands of years, in fact: magic, survival of the fittest, the strong rule the weak, commonplace murder. In a few short weeks, pampered boys turn into naked savages.
– And the Lord of the Flies, who is him?
– It, who is it. It’s their religion. A boar’s head on a stake, outside of a cave where the only wounded, surviving adult seeked refuge and was murdered by the hunters pack. Rotting in the sun. Attracts lots of flies, obviously, just like the corpse inside the cave….
– Nothing’s more cruel than a young boy. Although…
– Nothing. I need to change that music again. I’m sick and tired of the narcocorridos these Mexican guys play all the time.
Narcocorridos are a form of Mexican folklore music, that take the traditional corrido form, used for many generations to tell stories of brave revolutionaries, matadors, charros (cowboys) and such, and use it to sing the praises of new heroes, the narcotraficantes, drug smugglers, that take all kinds of risks to move their merchandise to El Norte, through the California, Arizona or Texas borders.
The generals bow to the government
Obey the charge you must not relent
What of the neighbors and the prophets in bars?
What are they saying in the public bazaar?
The bulletins that steady come in say those
Familiar words at the top of the hour
The jamming city increases its hum
And those terrible words continue to come
Yeah, he’s gone and changed the music allright, like anyone here’s gonna appreciate Strummer, she mutters. The Mexicans are disappointed, the more drunk among them boo him and he smiles as he sits in the cab of the truck. She joins him there, and with her better understanding of how a party works, looks for something different in the computer hooked up to the speakers. She finds some Depeche Mode, and the Mexican guests are a little surprised at first, but are soon dancing again. Digging her new DJ role, she keeps playing music she finds in the computer, James Brown, Underworld, Blondie, Kanye West, Ramones, Beatles. He’s just sitting there in the driver’s seat looking at her face as she smiles every time she finds a suitable track. Her selections have everybody dancing, not just the Mexicans – she’s managed to make some of the Anglos join in the fun. The other half of the world might be burning, but she’s determined to make this Day of the Dead party in Immokalee, FL, right on the edge the Everglades in the southern part of the peninsula, a fun one, and Raúl loves her for that. She always had this passion for, and understanding of music, without being a musician herself. She always was like an alchemist experimenting with music, seeing how it can alter a mood, create an idea, get together or pull apart a group, exorcize a demon, turning lead into gold and gold into lead.
He goes to sit with his farmer friend, Old H, whose red round face and long white beard make him look like some kind of redneck Santa. Little Lisa comes yawning to him and sits on his lap, her big round dark eyes checking out everything around her as the rythm of the conversation between her father and the older man makes her doze off. The conversation has to do with a secret affinity between the two men, as both have traveled a little known and dangerous part of the world, crossing the borders of Southern Mexico, British Honduras and Guatemala, and every time they meet they share old stories from their days in those parts, and old Dias de Muertos there.
– Oh, I’ve been there too… a shithole full of thieving bastards, dirty as hell and dangerous…
– Yessir, yessir. Exactly right. There was this guy, they called him Church. He had fallen off the church steeple, 80 foot or something, and hit the ground running, never broke anything. But his brain was effected, he was weird ever since.
– So he crashed this guys’ funeral?
– That’s right! It was unreal! Bum-rushed it! RIght there at the pub!
– They were having the wake at the pub?
– Yessir! Well, they called it a pub, you know how things are in Belize, it was barely a shack. Had him right on the pool table, the billiards…
Lily has gotten tired of playing music, leaves the narcocorridos playing and joins them.
– Can I get you anything?
– No, thanks, Lily… actually, could you go inside and make sure their beds are made? The midgets are about to pass out, I’ll take them to bed in a minute. And see if there’s any coffee left, please – he says pointing his chin to an empty cup.
– Right. I’ll make sure my bag is packed too, we might stay late tonight and I won’t be in the mood to pack tomorrow morning. What time did you say we have to leave?
– Well, usually you have to be 3 hrs early for international flights, but I guess we’ll aim for more this time, we don’t know what kind of scenes or increased security we’ll find at the airport. I’m aiming at leaving before noon. I’ll drive the kids back to Fort Myers early, be back to take you there as soon as I can.
– Thank you. Thank you.
– No worries. We’ll be fine. You’ll be fine. Let’s talk later, yeah? See about that coffee, we have a long night ahead.
[When the second rocket initiated its downward arc towards Highway 2 somewhere past North Tel Aviv, many contrails were already tracing lines in the air, moving fast in the opposite direction. The second or third wave of strategic bombers, Phantoms and Kfirs, laden with warheads ranging from 2 to over 100 kilotons – the first wave had been en route to Teheran while the initial rocket was still in the air, alerted by satellites and early detection systems. Rocket number 2 burst just above ground in the early evening, as the first mushroom cloud was still growing towards Old Jaffa and South Tel Aviv. Its destructive power was spread over a larger area than the first, because it exploded higher up, right above the Shefayim shopping center. The furnace-hot 400 meter-per-second blast reached Tel Aviv on one side, Yakum on the other, within a few moments, lifting cars and buses in the air in its wake. Brick and concrete buildings were not flattened but hollowed as roofs collapsed and everything inside burned. Kibbutz residents had hastily taken refuge in their biggest, strongest buildings, the dining hall and the library/arts hall, when the air raid alarms started wailing, but this didn’t save them. It was a quick death, at least, as most were turned into little puddles of fat and blood within a few seconds. The volunteer village huts, built out of wooden planks, were flattened and burned instantly along with palm trees and bougainvilleas. The volunteers’ kitchen and TV room, where most of them were at that time of day, disappeared in a ball of fire, and not even puddles of fat were left. A couple of volunteers, a Brazilian young man and his Finnish girlfriend, had been smoking a spliff at the old cemetery, the cemetery by the orange grove where the pioneer residents were buried, the original ones who had survived the death camps of Europe and had come to Palestine to create their own promised land. The two had been angry at each other for some reason, and hadn’t said anything the whole time they were smoking there. All of a sudden, a massive formation of combat aircraft had flown by over the Mediterranean a few blocks away, very fast, followed by tremendous sonic booms as they were going much faster than the speed of sound. Almost immediately the ground had started rumbling and shaking as in an earthquake – #1 had hit Old Jaffa. The woman stood up and let the joint drop. He stood up too and looked straight into her cold blue eyes, and they took a step towards each other. Without a sound, or maybe she actually said it but the noise around was too intense, looking straight into his eyes, she mouthed the words “I love you”. He read her lips and embraced her tightly, closely, as a blinding white flash preceded the blast. The massive wave of fire lifted them high in the air and they burned there, flying, as the rows of avocado trees below caught fire one after another]