A Free Novel

Part Eleven

(Part One), (Part Two), (Part Three), (Part Four),

(Part Five), (Part Six), (Part Seven), (Part Eight), (Part Nine),

(Part Ten), (Part Twelve)

Ginny Good, A Mostly True Story:

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Chapter Forty-two

"And the real rules are?" Oprah laughs.

"Everything you think you think is a lie. What did Nazi Germany and The Holocaust have to do with propaganda? Everything. If it hadn't been for normal, everyday, hardworking bus drivers and plumbers and housewives falling for the holier-than-thou exclusivity and trigger-happy nationalism Joseph Goebbels had them falling for, Hitler couldn't have blown his own nose and The Holocaust never would've happened...and the same cradle to grave conditioning's going on now, today, this minute...only it's way worse 'cause the guys doing it are way better. They have sixty years of new tools, new propaganda devices that make them more effective and more persuasive and more pervasive than poor Hitler's bumbling Nazis ever were. Better ways to keep people stupid slaves get trotted out every day. Hitler's propaganda goons had what? Newspapers? Home movies? Oompah bands? Billboards? Radio? Pep rallies? Parades? How quaint. These latest Nazis have HDTV and CGI and the Internet and iPods and blogs and social networks and smart phones and You Tube and interactive 3-D video games, oh my...and more engaging, more personalized, more mind-numbing stuff gets invented all the time. New pop icons dripping with glitz and glamour and equipped with better delivery systems than Hitler and his ham-handed propaganda ministry ever imagined go around hyping modern-day corporate-Nazi hogwash to the ends of the earth. Keeping people stupid slaves and keeping them from knowing what stupid slaves they are is the foundation of the global economy and the next holocaust. All kinds of other things have changed, too. It's not living space for the Fatherland or anything so plebeian as racial purity these new Nazis give a rat's ass about, it's money, plain and simple, it's getting rich and staying rich at all costs. So what if you have to rot the brains of billions of people? When there's money to be made all best are off. Rot all the brains you want. Buy all the propaganda you need. Keep people going into debt up to their eyeballs to buy the stuff you con them into thinking will make them free and pretty and smart and valuable and unique until you own them fair and square, then keep conning them 'til they willingly give you the fillings in their teeth, that's the ticket. It says so in the fine print...or didn't you read your contract?"

"Like what stuff, for instance?" Oprah asks.

"Like the all the useless crap you and guys like you sell, that's what. Have you ever seen any of the advertising that's made Harpo a billion dollar company?"

"I see a snippet or two, sure. Most of it looks okay to me."

"Pay attention someday. Listen to yourself. Look in a mirror. God gave you thick, frizzy, African hair, hair your mother could make into cornrows, hair that if you left it alone would grow into dreadlocks, but your owners don't let you leave it alone. Remember when you were a kid? I do. You were a confused little no-account teenage girl like a million other confused teenage girls 'til your owners came along, cleaned up your diction, fixed your teeth, straightened your hair, made you their own invention and gave you a job selling success to the rest of us, keeping our hearts and minds blinded by preposterous notions of fame and fortune and luck, feeding us nonstop, thought-executing advertising and touchy-feely poppycock so we won't know what maggots we are, so we won't see ourselves eating the entrails out of the dead carcass of what used to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. There's no freedom or bravery of any kind left anywhere anymore except maybe in a few little nowhere towns nobody ever heard of, no free press, no free speech, no free anything, there's only slaves, slave owners and the propaganda slave owners buy to keep stupid slaves stupid slaves. There's no democracy, there's only demographics. Liberty is a code word for subjugation. The only thing America has to show for itself in the last sixty years is the stupendous amount of money the oligarchy of rich guys has weaseled out of poor people the world over. They use you and guys like you to define what's slick and what's slick is what makes more money for them. You let them use you. You like it. You're proud of yourself. You make money, too. The more money you make the more you think you're worth like the more money stupid slaves make the more they think they're worth. You don't even know you're being used. You fall for the hogwash your owners spoon-feed you and collect your pound of flesh for making them the hundreds of pounds of flesh you make them every year. You're happy. They're happy. You're one of the merry minions of the feudal lords who own and operate this schlock dump of a country. You've been given your own fiefdom. It's remunerative, sure, they all are—A-Rod, Tom Cruise, J-Lo, Britney, they all get their piece of the pie. These latest Nazi oligarchs have carved us up into more vertical markets than you can shake a stick at. They buy celebrity icons and sappy ideas from licensed agents and managers, CAA, ICM, William Morris, blah, blah, blah, and use them to see to it that every segment of society keeps going into debt and pays interest on that debt to buy the crap they sell—sports freaks, news junkies, political geeks, music groupies, moviegoers, evangelical twits, hip-hop nitwits, whatever, everyone creditworthy enough to borrow any kind of money at all is always going to find someone just like him or just like her to tell 'em what to spend it on. We live in the United Feudal States of Greed, Gluttony and Global Starvation. We pledge allegiance to banks and judge our worth by what we buy with the money we borrow. Every iota of information that makes its way into your wee little pea brain supports the sole notion that creating, preserving and earning interest on wealth is the only thing of any consequence on this earth. Where's it gonna end? What's gonna happen when you've weaseled every nickel there is to weasel out of every ordinary man, woman and child on the planet and have made all the money there is to make? Billions of people are going to go bankrupt and die of disease and starvation and clumsy acts of corporate terrorism so the chosen few can keep getting richer and richer, that's what. It's the only logical outcome. Some ungodly proportion of the human population of the planet is going to have to be exterminated in order for the upper crust to continue to thrive. Make nothing but money with all your might day and night and maybe you'll still be around when they pick up the pieces. So what if you have to get rid of however many billions of people it's gonna end up being? The world isn't going anywhere. There's always gonna be someone somewhere. They'll fall in love and get married and have kids. Life's short; history's long. You can't kill everyone. Hitler and his propaganda goons tried to get rid of international Jewry and it backfired on them. The Holocaust turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to international Jewry."

"How can saying something like that not be anti-Semitic?" Oprah blurts.

"It's just not, that's how." The old guy shakes his head wearily, sadly, slowly. "Despite everything you've heard or read or seen or learned in all the schools that have ever been endowed, math and science and logic and facts aren't anti-Semitic. Hitler was the best thing that ever happened to Jews the same way the extermination of billions of people in the next holocaust is gonna be the best thing that ever happened to mankind in general. The planet can only sustain a finite number of people. It's a short-run, long-run thing. Any single individual human being is more complex and beautiful and charming and miraculous than the whole species put together. It doesn't matter how many people you have to get rid of as long as some survive, the select few, the chosen ones. There'll be a new dawn, a new beginning. Things will be different, better, less cluttered, you'll see. So six billion people die a horrible death, so what? Who knew they were even there in the first place? Rag pickers and beggars and dope addicts and the lazy and the lame and the unlucky and the unruly and those who aren't that cute, who's gonna miss any of them? Who missed any of the sixty million people Mao got rid of to make modern China? Nobody. And wasn't everyone else better off because of it? Of course they were. Take a walk up and down the aisles at a Wal-Mart some day. If it weren't for sixty million dead Chinese opium addicts, there wouldn't be anything on the shelves. I don't like these new wealth-based Nazi notions any better than I would've liked Hitler's Nazi notions but when you don't like something what are you supposed to do? Shut up about it? Let sleeping dogs lie? Go along to get along? Bide your time? Hope? If a third of the new Nazi billionaires are Jews and nothing but Jews and guys who kiss up to Jews do the propaganda for the other two-thirds of the Nazis who own and operate the global gulag, what's wrong with saying so? Sunlight's the best disinfectant. How many Jews are there?"

"Not quite twenty million," Giselle says.

"In the whole world?" The old guy looks surprised.

"Yep...Dennis and I figured it all out once. It's two percent of the population of the United States, one out of fifty, but everywhere else only one out of every four hundred people is Jewish. There are cities with more people in them than there are Jews in the world. There are almost as many illegal aliens in the United States as there are Jews in the world."

"So?" Oprah asks.

"So name me one illegal alien," the old guy says quickly. "Jews wouldn't be anywhere near the big deal they are if it hadn't been for Hitler. The Holocaust got turned into a public relations bonanza during the past sixty years. You've been conditioned to think that killing six million Jews was the worst thing that ever happened in the history of all mankind the same way you're being conditioned to think that making slaves of six billion people is the best thing that ever happened. What do you think will become of the poor darlings when they're not of any use to their owners anymore? What becomes of worn out shoes? Look at it logically. If only one out of every four hundred people in the world is Jewish, how come one out of every three billionaires is a Jew? What odd confluence of events could account for such a statistical glitch?"

"Talent, hard work, ambition, education, smart genes," Oprah says. "Oh, and being God's chosen people has gotta have something to do with it, too."

"Everyone's God's chosen people," Isaac says.

"I know, sweetie. That was a joke."

"Joke or no joke," the old guy goes on. "The notion of anyone being God's chosen people has gotta make God's skin crawl."

"Like you know what God's skin's doing," Oprah says.

"I know that Hitler and Himmler and Goebbels came up with the notion that some mythical bunch of Aryans—whatever the heck that was—were God's real chosen people, then tried to get rid of Jews 'cause they stole the idea off them in the first place. There couldn't be two chosen people. Something had to give. Things didn't work out for The Third Reich and handy-dandy, Jews got to be God's chosen people again. Jews got given the State of Israel and a few million Palestinian slaves because of all the wrong that got done to them by Hitler and the Nazis, the same way Hitler and the Nazis got given Germany and a few million Slavic and Jewish slaves on account of all the wrong that got done to Germans after the First World War. Jews can do no wrong because of all the wrong that got done to them. The State of Israel can get away with murder the same way Nazis got away with murder. Turnabout is fair play. To the victors go the spoils. Might makes right. Because of the Holocaust, Israel doesn't have to abide by international law the same way Hitler didn't have to abide by international law after the Treaty of Versailles. The Israeli Defense Force can attack and occupy any territory it wants to attack and occupy. UN resolutions have no effect on the State of Israel. Israel can kill and maim and kidnap anyone it wants to kill and maim and kidnap. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been routinely tortured in Israeli jails for decades but let one lonely nineteen-year-old Jewish soldier take a wrong turn in Gaza and all holy hell breaks loose—and that's just for starters. Thanks to Hitler and the Holocaust, Israel has the God-given right to have all the nuclear weapons it wants and the means to shoot them anywhere it wants to shoot them any time it wants and doesn't have to be a party to any ridiculous nuclear nonproliferation treaty, like those idiots in Iran. Who's more likely to nuke its neighbors? Iran? A country with no nuclear weapons who's a party in good standing to a global nonproliferation treaty? Or Israel? A country with close to four hundred nuclear warheads, a bunch of which are mounted on cruise missiles in submarines that can be launched in a matter of minutes against any other country in the world, a country with a paranoid-schizophrenic penchant for unprovoked attacks on other sovereign nations, a country that's not only not a party to a nonproliferation treaty but doesn't admit it has any nuclear weapons, period? What kind of big fat lie is that? How stupid do they think we are? Oh, throw in the fact that Israel has huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons it doesn't admit having, either, while you're at it. But the answer, in case you're wondering, the answer, strange as it may seem, the answer is: Iran! Can you believe it? I can't. How can Iran, with no nuclear weapons, possibly be more likely to nuke its neighbors than Israel, with enough nuclear weapons to incinerate half the planet and the single-minded obsession that nothing in the world is more vital than the survival and security of the State of Israel? I'll tell you how, because Jews and guys who kiss up to Jews in the media and entertainment monopoly are in absolute and total control of every tidbit of information you're allowed to know, that's how. Jews are a hundred times more likely to be billionaires than anyone else 'cause everyone else in the world is terrified of Jews. The last thing you ever want to do is piss off a Jew. Why? Whoa, let me count the ways. First, Jews are in charge of propaganda for the multinational conglomerates that have all the money in the world, second, the State of Israel has more nuclear weapons than China, India, Pakistan and the UK put together and third, the United States will protect and defend Israel at all costs against all enemies forever because no politician can get elected in America without the support of Jews and guys who kiss up to Jews in the media and entertainment monopoly. If you piss off a Jew nobody will ever hear a word you have to say—you'll be blackballed, blacklisted, despised, rejected, demonized, ignored, intimidated—and if you piss of Israel you'll get nuked. It's a stacked deck. All you ever hear about is Jews—watch TV, go to the movies, listen to NPR or read a newspaper or a magazine if you don't believe me. Who runs baseball and football and basketball? Who creates Western culture? Who spreads it all over the world? Who runs Wall Street? Who owns Hollywood? Who's in charge of governments and courts and sports and medicine and unions and universities? Jews and guys who kiss up to Jews, that's who. And if you take normal, everyday nice Jews out of the equation—all the kind, thoughtful, humane, cautious Jews who live by the same Nazi rules as anyone else—the handful of Jews and guys who kiss up to Jews who make the Nazi rules have utter dominion over the hearts and minds of almost everyone almost everywhere and Israel has enough nuclear weapons to turn Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and the rest of the Middle East into a parking lot in ten minutes flat—or China or Russia or the United States or any other country that might try to keep Israel from doing anything Israel bloody-well wants to do."

"Israel's not gonna turn the United States into a parking lot," Oprah says.

"No? Why not? After all Israel's been through since Rome took over Jerusalem two thousand years ago, after the death camps and the struggles of the Haganah and the sweat and blood that made deserts bloom, you think they're gonna just give up? Ever? What if the United States or the UN or anyone else tries to make the Middle East a nuclear-free-zone, like everybody and his brother wants it to be? Who's gonna get Israel to give up its nukes? Nobody. Israel's got submarines armed with nuclear warheads on cruise missiles, for Christ's sake. They'll bomb the United States or the UN or Russia or China or anyone else who might not see things exactly the way Israel sees things. A handful of Holocaust survivors and their offspring, with the world's financial institutions and the all-pervasive media and entertainment monopoly on their side, are holding the human race hostage. People are raw material, period. Wealth is extracted from the vast majority and accumulated by the minuscule minority thanks to Jews and guys who kiss up to Jews who run the media and entertainment monopoly. Which should we be more worried about, Israeli cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads being launched against any or all other countries in the world or Iran maybe enriching enough uranium to blow some Ayatollah's nose someday? The morons in media and entertainment will tell you it's the Ayatollah's nose we have to worry about. How absurd is that? You tell me. Those are the questions you can ask 'til the cows come home and not only will you never get an answer but nobody will ever even get to hear the question. Hitler and The Holocaust created a monster that's gonna give birth to a monster a thousand times worse than Hitler and the Holocaust ever were."

"Okay," Isaac says, "So the media and entertainment monopoly is run by Jews and guys who kiss up to Jews and they see to it that the rich get richer and that Israel gets protected and defended at all costs because The Holocaust was a bitch, but Jews are still mostly just employed by big companies. That makes sense."

"Sense!" Oprah's eyes bug out like Stepin Fetchit's. "Anti-Semitic hate speech does not make sense. It's offensive and cruel and bordering on criminal."

"Pfssh," the old guy says. "Anti-Semitism is a crock." He seems to have changed some, too, but Giselle can't figure out quite how, either. Everyone seems to be getting older. Maybe it has something to do with drinking that darn tea. "Jews and guys who kiss up to Jews run all the big media and entertainment companies, not to mention a fair number of financial institutions. That's a fact. Read some annual reports. See for yourself. Facts are facts. Israel's nuclear arsenal has been around since 1968. Every little community of ten thousand people in the State of Israel has its own personal nuclear weapon. There are sixty-five million people in Iran and the whole country doesn't have any nuclear weapons at all, not one. Israel has unilaterally bombed other countries. Iran hasn't. Those are facts. One out of every four hundred people in the world is Jewish and one out of every three billionaires is a Jew. True or false? True. Jews don't have oil or gas or gold mines, right? So how did such a tiny minority living on a plot of worthless desert the size of New Jersey get so much power, so much authority, so much sway? By sticking together, that's how. By using The Holocaust and a shared sense of two thousand years of anti-Semitism to harness the power that comes from being an oppressed minority from time immemorial and using that power to buddy up with the Jews in New York and Hollywood and DC who control a substantial portion of US capital markets and all media, entertainment and politics, that's how. When you've got the exclusive contract to do all the propaganda for nearly every multinational corporation on the planet, you're gonna get a little influence out of the deal, you're gonna make sure that only what you have to say is ever allowed to be heard, you're gonna make it impossible for anyone to have access to anything that differs with what you get paid to tell people, right? There wasn't a lot of dissent in Nazi Germany, was there? The only difference between Nazi propaganda and the propaganda spewed by the current media and entertainment monopoly is that they've brainwashed us to believe that Hitler was crazy and that they're sane—that's how you know how much more insane they are than Hitler ever was."

"Nothing you've said your whole life isn't insane if you ask me," Oprah says.

"Nothing you've heard your whole life isn't insane. Hitler was a hundred times more popular than you or any other celebrity is today and no politician even comes close. Look at film from the Olympics, the looks on the faces of kids, nobody in Germany didn't think he wasn't the best thing that ever happened to them."

"A fair number of Jews weren't all that crazy about the guy."

"That's true...and there are people who aren't all that crazy about the capitalist cruelty and corporate greed that's going on now, either. The world got turned into a big, fenced-in sheep ranch when nobody was looking. The fence is unassailable. Nothing worth knowing ever gets in and none of the sheep ever even wants to get out. Big, multinational Nazi conglomerates own the land and the sheep, of course—they own everything—but they pay Jews and guys who kiss up to Jews in the media and entertainment monopoly to manage the joint, to keep the fence in good repair and shepherd the sheep, to fatten them up and keep them content and shear them and slaughter the stupid things, then sell the wool and the mutton to the next bunch of sheep at a tidy profit. The cycle goes on and on, generation after generation. The minute a baby comes bleating out of its mother's womb it becomes a means to make money. The little tyke has to be sustained—fed, clothed, sheltered, educated, civilized, the whole nine yards, and its parents willingly give up their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor and anything else they can beg, borrow or steal to ensure the well-being of the kid. They sell themselves into slavery so their kids can grow up and sell themselves into slavery and so on and so on. It's like a big sausage factory. Hearts and minds and souls and freedom and love go in one end and money comes out the other...and Jews and guys who kiss up to Jews in the propaganda cabal have absolute authority and complete control of every aspect of the whole enterprise. Someone has to run the place. Who better than the propaganda mooks that turned them into such stupid sheep in the first place? If you keep 'em stupid enough, sheep will shear themselves. The guys who own Nazi conglomerates get that. Without overseers, there couldn't be slaves. Jews and guys who kiss up to Jews in media and entertainment enjoy their work. They show up early and stay late and feel good about themselves. It's fun keeping sheep happy. The stupid things look up to you. They depend on you for everything and they're scared shitless of your whips and chains and cattle prods. There are other perks, too. You make a decent living and the work isn't really all that hard. Sheep are pretty simple-minded by nature, and they get even more simple-minded when you keep them fenced-in their whole lives and make sure they go deeper and deeper in debt every minute of every day to buy the crap their owners need them to buy. 'Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go, I owe my soul to the company store.'"

"So Jews keep people stupid to make corporations rich? Far out," Oprah says.

"Hey, you're catching on!"

"So we should do what? Reinstate race laws? Make it illegal to be Jewish? Go paint a big yellow Star of David on Viacom's front door? Smash all the windows in the Conde Nast Building?" Oprah seems to be conducting a small orchestra with an imaginary paint brush and a few bricks. "Let's mercilessly resist the poisoner of all nations, international Jewry! Is that a direct quote from Hitler's last will and testament, or what? Do you have any idea how laughable this all is?"

"What's laughable is how many simple, straightforward, verifiable facts with which nobody in his or her right mind can possibly disagree get construed as anti-Semitic. You've been conditioned your whole life to believe that any statement of simple arithmetic that smacks of anti-Semitism is either false or can't be uttered in public. That's what a police state does. A police state makes you think right is wrong. There's nothing worse you can be than anti-Semitic but when facts are anti-Semitic, what's a person to do? Thinking facts are anti-Semitic is a tool to keep you from knowing what the heck the facts really are, what the truth really is, what the rules really are so the rules can be whatever the police state wants them to be. It's a marketing ploy, part of a whole set of convenient notions designed to cater to the Judeo-Christian wing of the corporate-Nazi oligarchy. As Israel and the propaganda monopoly goes, so goes the good old US of A. The land of the free has been ceded to a handful of Jews and guys who kiss up to Jews in media and entertainment who gear everything that gets into anyone's brain toward two overriding objectives, making money for corporate Nazis and protecting and defending the State of Israel to the last breath of life on earth—whatever it takes, however many trillions of dollars, however much innocent blood, there's nothing more important than making money and keeping Israel safe. The Muslim faction has other ideas, of course. There wasn't much Israel and the United States liked better than Iran and Iraq killing and maiming each other to the tune of a million or so people during the Iran-Iraq war. The more Muslims that kill each other, the fewer Muslims we're going to have to kill in order for Israel to be secure and live in peace. As long there are any self-respecting Muslims left in the Middle East, Israel's never gonna be secure. Nobody in Israel even wants to live in peace. What would there be to kvetch about? It's hard to play the hapless victim when you're pound-for-pound the most powerful nation on the planet. We've hitched our star to a tribe of crazy people. Listen to the news some night. Do you have any idea how many people are trying to help Israel tear down The Dome of the Rock and rebuild The Temple of Solomon so Jesus can come back in a blaze of evangelical glory, so Israel and the United States can get their hands on all that oil and turn the Arabian Peninsula into a shopping mall? Two billion, that's how many—the whole Judeo-Christian faction of the Nazi oligarchy. We don't want peace and security, we want production and prosperity. Who can have both? Nobody."

"What about the China faction? The India faction?" Abraham asks.

"They're biding their time, buying T-bills, building roads, making fiber-optic Christmas trees, letting the drama play itself out," the old guy says. "Conflict makes money for all the factions. The global Nazi oligarchy's gonna come out smelling like a rose no matter who wins or loses in the Middle East or anywhere else. Jews and guys who kiss up to Jews in the media and entertainment monopoly know how to perpetuate conflict, how to turn it into sizzle, how to sell it, how to capitalize on it. What progress has peace in the Middle East made in sixty years? None. Israel doesn't want an end to hostilities on any terms but its own and its terms are that as long as there's a single Islamic martyr willing to kill himself or herself in order to hurt a single Jew there's not gonna be an end to hostilities. Hostilities make money. There's always gonna be a quibble, a nuance, another nutty little Netanyahu nit to pick. Who's gonna solve that? The bottom line is that Israeli Jews and Arab Muslims don't hit it off, period, and it serves the purposes of the media and entertainment monopoly to see to it that they never do. I suppose that's anti-Semitic, too."

"Nothing you've said all day isn't anti-Semitic," Oprah says.

"Cool. I must be on the right track. You've been brainwashed to believe there's nothing worse in the world than anti-Semitism. If you see or hear something that looks or sounds as if it may be vaguely critical of Israel or Jews in general or some random Jew in particular, you close your eyes, hold your hands over your ears and squawk like a chicken. Anyone perceived as anti-Semitic gets ignored, cast out, dismissed, called crazy. It's a closed, self-fulfilling, self-aggrandizing, solipsistic system, out of which not the slightest sliver of truth can ever hope to escape—the exact same way Nazi Germany was a closed, self-fulfilling, self-aggrandizing system."

"And you want to open it up? See to it somehow that uppity, money grubbing Jews get taken down a peg or two?"

"Nope. I don't care what uppity, money grubbing Jews do, but I wouldn't mind it if you had the slightest clue that what I'm saying might just be a tiny bit true. It's a lot to ask, I know. The truth is anti-Semitic. It should be avoided at all costs. Try saying something someone at the ADL or the B'nai Brith or the nutcakes at AIPAC might construe as anti-Semitic on your show someday. I dare you. You'll be off the air by the time they come back from the next commercial."

"What did Jews ever do to you?" Oprah frowns.

"Normal, nice, everyday Jews who eat bagels, sing Hava Nagila and laugh at each other's jokes? Nothing. I like nice Jews, but the sniveling, sanctimonious Nazi Jew thugs who run the media and entertainment monopoly pissed me off."

"For not paying attention to your stupid hippie book?"

"Yep, and for being smug, smarmy, thoughtless Nazi goons who rot a billion brains a day for the sake of making nothing but more and more money. It's not just my stupid hippie book, it's any book worth reading or writing, it's anything worth knowing, anything that's not giddy, giggly, pop culture puke or foolish, fatuous, frivolous, formulaie drivel. Books aren't even books anymore, they're book deals. Any pile of preposterous crap that gets a decent advance is obviously a book worth buying, and only books worth buying are worth reading or writing. Hype is everything and hype begins and ends with the deal. If Simon & Schuster paid a million bucks for the rights to The Wichita Falls Yellow Pages, The Wichita Falls Yellow Pages would be a great book. It ain't literature 'til Sumner Redstone says it's literature. Oy gevalt. The human mind has been turned into worthless, inelegant, money grubbing mush by the chicken Nazi Jew thugs who own and operate all media and all entertainment. The only things you can know are whatever's in line with this latest incarnation of Nazi propaganda, i.e., if it doesn't make money you can't know it. That's the sole parameter of modern-day Nazi propaganda. Anything that doesn't make money isn't worth knowing. You can look it up in The Modern-Day Nazi Propaganda Manual. It's put out by the Nazi Jews and guys who kiss up to Nazi Jews who run every aspect of the media and entertainment cabal from The New York Times to MTV—Rolling Stone, Comedy Central, Conde Nast, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CNN, Sony, Walt Disney, Time-Warner, The Weinstein Company, MGM, Miramax, DreamWorks, Imagine, publicists, agents, managers, entertainment lawyers, CAA, ICM, William Morris, you name it, they all traffic exclusively in modern-day Nazi propaganda and worthless, money grubbing, mind-numbing schmaltz. If you don't conform to the sole parameter of modern-day Nazi propaganda, nothing you do or say will ever see the light of day, period. It's as simple as that. Anything you've ever heard of has to be sniveling, sanctimonious, worthless, money grubbing Nazi propaganda. That's the definition. If you've heard of it, it's Nazi propaganda. Only things you've never heard of stand any kind of chance at all of being worth knowing."

"So you keep saying, but so what? The only thing you've really established with all your ranting and raving is that you're an absolute nonentity."

"Nonentity or not, when someone pisses me off the least I can do is try to piss 'em off back."

"In your own mind, maybe." Oprah rolls her eyes.

"My own mind's what matters. If I'd lived in Nazi Germany, Hitler would've pissed me off. I would've tried to piss him off back. You would've seen me up in the stands at the Olympics, flipping him off. I may have ended up in Dachau but I'd way rather have been in Dachau than goose-stepping around with a swastika on my arm, swallowing Nazi schmaltz all day every day. Where I'm living now is in Nazi America, and it's guys like Si Newhouse and Sumner Redstone and Michael Bloomberg and David Geffen and Stephen Spielberg and Arthur Sulzberger and Jeff Berg and their lawyers and publicists and the army of politicians, college professors, talk show hosts and think tank dweebs they own and operate who piss me off."

"That includes me."

"Absolutely, but I can't blame you for it. You're as brainwashed as anyone else. Jews and guys who kiss up to Jews in media and entertainment have the whole world gagging on worthless, money grubbing corporate-Nazi schmaltz and drowning in mindless, thoughtless, criminally insane corporate-Nazi double talk. That pisses me off and I'd dearly love to come up with a way to piss them off back someday."

"Fat chance," Oprah says.

"Hey, if you don't at least try to piss off the people who piss you off you might as well check yourself into Auschwitz—that's where you're living anyway."

"According to Dennis, that was what Nazi Germany, World War Two and the whole Holocaust was all about in the first place," Giselle says.

"What?" Abraham asks.

"Jews pissing off Hitler. Him trying to piss 'em off back. Dennis had it all worked out going clear back to when some bunch of Jewish administrators didn't let Hitler into art school and ending up with Geli Raubal killing herself after she got knocked up by a Jewish teacher somewhere. Linz, I think." She frowns.

"There was more to it than that."

"Oh, way more, yeah, Dennis had dates, times, places, subplots, genealogies and conflicting theories all mapped out like a big spreadsheet in his head. He was obsessed, I told you. He got all psychoanalytical about it, but the gist was that some guys who happened to be Jewish pissed off Hitler a time or two and he turned being personally pissed off at a few random Jews into the political gibberish he came up with in Mein Kampf. Pop culture picked up on it. Anti-Semitism was already pretty trendy at the time and there were other things going on, but if the love of his life hadn't been diddling some serendipitous Jew, Nazi Germany and The Holocaust never would've happened. Well, you know, if you go by what Dennis says."

"Dennis is an idiot," Abraham says.

"Like your father's not an idiot?" Oprah asks.

"Oh, he's an idiot, too. He admits it. He's proud of it. He fancies himself the fool on the hill."

"Do you want to know clearly and precisely in simple English why you only do what Jews and guys who kiss up to Jews tell you to do?" The old guy wags a finger lazily in Oprah's direction.

"Not particularly, no," she says.

The old guy shakes his head slowly, seems to give up, sighs and says, "It's just cyclical, I suppose. Nations rise and fall. Nazis come and go. The glory that was the USA is of another day. People get what they deserve. Pendulums swing, 'riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay.' Fortune smiles. The wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round."

"Ow," Isaac says. Everyone's attention turns to him. He's sitting cross-legged on the floor with his left foot in his lap, trying to take off one of his shoes. His feet seem to have grown. Abraham scoots over next to him. The Velcro has popped open but Isaac's foot stays stuck in the shoe.

"Let's have Diane take a look at you," Abraham says.

"What's wrong?" Giselle asks.

"He's getting too big for his britches." Abraham takes their son by the hand. Isaac's having a hard time walking. "Come out to the kitchen with us."

"Sure." Giselle starts to get up, but can't move.

"What's the matter?" Abraham asks. "Are you coming or do you want to stay here and talk about Dennis?"

"I'm trying. My legs don't work," she says.

"Fine. Stay. Talk about drippy Dennis all you want."

"Hang on a second, I can't move."

Abraham sweeps Isaac up into his arms, swings one of the doors leading into the kitchen wide open, flips down the doorstop with his foot and the two of them disappear, leaving the living room suddenly filled with the warmth of home cooking and a glow of hospitality and flat-out organic affection that stops Giselle in the middle of wondering why she can't move, wondering what's wrong with Isaac, wondering whether Abraham's really jealous of Dennis or not and how silly that would be if he is. The warm, moist, mouthwatering smells of baking and broiling and basting coming from the kitchen are like a drug, some soporific that instantly calms her mind. There's a song, too, an old song, a song she doesn't recognize at first, a song Mame used to sing to her, maybe. It sounds like Al Jolson singing on a scratchy record player—but the voice is a woman's voice. Diane's. Why does Abraham want Diane to take a look at Isaac? What the hell can she do that Giselle can't? What is she, the mother of all mothers? She didn't do all that well with her own damn son. Oh, well. Abraham knows what he's doing. He always has. And the song she's singing is so sweet, so gentle, so loving:

"Climb upon my knee, Sonny Boy,
Though you're only three, Sonny Boy,
You've no way of knowing,
There's no way of showing,
What you mean to me, Sonny Boy."

Chapter Forty-three

Giselle could still hear Diane singing the Sonny Boy song somewhere nearby but she couldn't smell anything cooking in the kitchen anymore and not only could she not move her legs, she couldn't see. Her eyes had somehow gone shut on her and she couldn't get them open again. Sheesh. If it wasn't one thing it was another. But worse than not being able to smell or move or see, Giselle had the scary feeling that she might not even be in Tennessee. So what was Diane doing there, then? It was her voice singing the song, that much Giselle knew for an absolute fact.

"When there are gray skies, I don't mind the gray skies;
You make them blue, Sonny Boy.
Friends may forsake me, let them all forsake me;
I still have you, Sonny Boy."

She willed them and willed them with all her might but Giselle's poor eyelids could not for the life of them remember how to actually, physically do what the hell ever they needed to do in order to open. Something very weird was going on. Again. She knew Diane's voice, but that was all she knew. The soft, tremulous, off-key singing was coming from the general direction of her feet, which she could barely feel at the ends of her legs. The song took her mind off everything else. Wow, was it ever pretty, the voice, singing so longingly, infusing the song with such inept tenderness, such heartfelt devotion. Maybe Diane was an angel. Giselle might have died and gone to heaven. Was anything possible? Heck, yeah.

When she finally got her eyelids to work again, ABC World News Tonight was on the fuzzy, fritzy, jiggly 27-inch television set bolted to a high-gloss beige enamel angle-iron frame up by the ceiling above the foot of her bed. How had she gotten into a bed, Giselle did not know. Out of the corners of her eyes she could see at least three other TV sets at equally elevated spots along a row of other beds in the otherwise unlighted room. Some of the televisions had better reception than others. Giselle's had the worst reception of all. There was a radio playing somewhere, too, tuned to NPR. Diane had finished singing the Sonny Boy song by then. She must still have been in the room but Giselle couldn't see her. All she could see was the television above the foot of her bed and the other televisions above the other beds.

And where was Peter Jennings, by the way? On vacation, maybe, but just before they went to commercial, the logo that faded away said, "World News with Charles Gibson." Who was Charles Gibson? Charlie Gibson from Good Morning America? Yep. Was he just filling in? Nope. They wouldn't put his name in the title if he were just filling in. Was she in a hospital? Each of the other beds below the TV sets appeared to have a supine person in it. Where else but a hospital would there be so many beds with so many supine people in them and TV sets above them? She would have lifted up her head and looked around the room, but she couldn't move her head. The muscles in her neck that operated her head didn't work. It hurt just to move her eyes from side to side, like her eye muscles didn't work very well, either. It felt like she had a catheter in her crotch. It felt like she was wearing an adult diaper. What had Abraham and Isaac and Oprah and the old guy done with her? Had she said something wrong? What could she possibly have said that was worse than all the stuff Abraham's dad had been ranting about? Or had all that really just been a dream, like she'd supposed all along—the Boise State sweatshirt, Abraham nuzzling her neck, the old guy's bronze smoking jacket, that scrumptious-smelling kitchen with Ray peeling apples and Diane's forehead sweating under her strawberry-blond bangs, the tea, Oprah holding Isaac? Had it all come whole cloth out of her own woebegone brain? Maybe. She didn't know anything for an absolute fact.

The last commercial ended. Charlie Gibson was talking about IEDs blowing off the arms and legs of American soldiers in Baghdad. What the heck were IEDs and why were there soldiers in Iraq? Nothing was making any sense. What the hell was sense supposed to be, anyway? She closed her eyes again and tried to piece things together in her mind.

From the time Giselle had been on the phone with Ted until she heard Diane singing and Charlie Gibson talking about IEDs in Iraq she had fitful recollections of losing consciousness and regaining consciousness and losing it again. The first time she woke up she was on her kitchen floor, apparently recovering from another seizure. She hated when that happened. One of the chairs was tipped over. There were pencils scattered around. Someone was knocking at her front door. Ketchum was barking. Giselle started to stand up to let them in, but then had to sit back down and lean against the oven door. She tried to tell Ketchum to knock it off but couldn't talk and feebly clapped her hands, instead. Ketchum quit barking, came over, lolled his dripping tongue over his lower teeth and sat down beside her on the floor.

An overweight black woman and a skinny, pimply, almost albino white guy wearing EMT uniforms let themselves in and walked through her parlor pushing a folded gurney. Ted must have called her an ambulance. Ha! She hadn't heard the siren. She'd tried to tell the gentle black woman that she didn't need an ambulance, that she was fine, but neither of them understand a word she was trying to say. Hm. Maybe she wasn't all that fine, after all. Maybe she did need them. She didn't even bother to try to get up, but just let them lift her onto the stretcher. Ketchum growled. Her little dogs snarled. Toot's long, silky mane tried to stand up in a ridge along his spine but the breed had been coddled so long he couldn't seem to muster basic instincts anymore. Giselle managed to say, "Shh."

The thought crossed her mind that the black woman might want to hear the monkey joke, but another thought that crossed her mind almost simultaneously led her to consider the possibility that the black woman might not think the monkey joke was funny under the circumstances. Giselle wasn't so sure it was even all that funny herself, by then. Isaac would have thought it was funny but she hadn't had a chance to tell him yet. There was so much she wanted to tell him. Wait. She hadn't even known about Isaac when the EMT guys showed up. She hadn't been pregnant for much longer than a day. Her poor brain was a jumbled-up mess.

The black woman asked her which hospital she wanted to go to. Giselle told her Rockford Memorial, but it sounded more like, "Auk...oriole." Her mouth was on the fritz again. The woman figured it out—or maybe it was just a lucky guess; there were only two hospitals to choose from. The EMT people shoved the gurney into the ambulance. The skinny guy drove. The black woman sat in back with her. They didn't speak. Giselle closed her eyes. She was tired. She dozed off. When she woke up, Diane was singing and Charlie Gibson talking about IEDs blowing off the arms and legs of American soldiers on the fuzzy television above her bed.

She opened her eyelids again. It was easier this time. Her body felt like it was getting the hang of things, like it had been on vacation in the Bermuda Triangle for who knows how long but now she must have been back in Rockford again, thank God. Or was it Rockford? Was it even a hospital? It must have been but it didn't look like any hospital she'd ever been in before.

With the arm that didn't have the IV taped to it, Giselle reached for the nurse call button but there wasn't any nurse call button. What the hell kind of two-bit hospital had they stuck her in? It couldn't have been Rockford Memorial; she'd been there before and it was a good hospital. It had a nurse call button. And why was the reception on her TV so shitty? Hadn't whoever these guys were ever heard of cable? She had plenty of insurance and if it ran out, Dennis would have been happy to exercise his medical power of attorney to pay the bills for a decent hospital room. He would gladly have cashed in her whole god damn two million dollars worth of stock once he found out she had two million dollars worth of stock, that fucker. He would have seen to it that his law firm got paid a hefty fee, too.

While she was trying to find some way to get a nurse in there, Giselle's hand happened upon a metal tray on the table next to her bed. She pushed it as hard as she could but the thing barely budged. God, she was weak. She pushed the tray again and again, nudging it along a little at a time until it finally fell onto the floor with a loud crash. Nobody in any of the other beds moved a muscle. The thought crossed her mind that this was no hospital, it was a morgue—but morgues were cold, she was warm. Her powers of deduction hadn't deserted her. The woman who showed up wasn't wearing a uniform but had on faded Lee jeans and a purple Northwestern Lacrosse shirt. What kind of cheap-ass hospital didn't give its nurses uniforms?

"Mrs. Winters?" The woman frowned.

"God, help me," Giselle said.

"Holy shit," the woman said.


The woman tilted her head slightly and said, "How do you know my name?"

"If you're not Ray's mother my head's too whacked for words."

"How do you know Ray?"

"You and me rag on Sally Turnbull about him when she's not around."

"Who's Sally Turnbull?"

"The ditzy guidance counselor who thinks Ray has ADD."

"I don't know anyone by that name."

"Don't dick with me, okay? My head's a wreck."

"I honestly don't know how you know me."

"Well, how do I then?" Giselle shot back.

"I'd better get the nurse," Diane said.

"No, no, stay. Ray's in my math class. Ray Blovits. He teases Darrell. You're Mrs. Blovits. Diane. We've had long conversations. You showed up in this big-ass dream I was having. You guys were out in the kitchen cooking dinner, you and Ray. We were at Abraham's dad's house on a mountaintop in Tennessee. He's your dad, too. Ray's his grandson. Ray and Isaac are both his grandchildren. Oprah was there. She's Abraham's mother. It's a long story. You might not know any of it, I don't know. It was probably all part of this huge dream I was having, but you've got to know me. Why else would you have called me Mrs. Winters?"

"Your husband and I see each other here all the time."

"Did he bring Isaac? God, I hope not. I must look like death."

"Your mother came with him a few times at first but I don't know anyone named Isaac and I've never met a Sally Trimble. There's a big guy named Darrell who does maintenance, but you've never been awake that I know of."

"Turnbull. Sally Turnbull."

"I don't know her, either," Diane said.

"Do you have a son named Ray?"

"Yes," Diane drew the word out cautiously. "He's been in the bed across from yours since his skateboard accident. That was a long time ago. You were already here. Dennis told me the whole story."

"What whole story?"

"Your aneurysm. The surgery in Rochester. The lawsuit. The settlement." She smiled a soft, private smile she didn't seem to know she was even smiling.

"Did he mention who did the surgery?"

"Some guy named Nolan. Donald Nolan."

"Maybe you'd better call Dr. Javid."

"I don't know a Dr. Javid."

"Who the hell's my doctor, then?"

"Dr. Wacholder."

"I don't know any god damn Dr. Wacholder."

"You've been in a coma. Dennis had you transferred here."

"Probably 'cause it was cheap." Giselle screwed up her mouth.

Diane clicked the mute button on the remote control that was next to Giselle's medical chart hanging from the foot of her bed. "He's been coming to see you as long as I've known him, as long as you've been here," she said.

"Where's here?" she asked after Diane hadn't said anything for awhile.

"Evanston." She pinched the right shoulder of her Northwestern Lacrosse shirt as if that were supposed to explain everything. "It's a long term care facility called Crockett House." Diane put the remote on the table next to Giselle's bed.

"He could have put me somewhere in Rockford, at least."

"What's in Rockford?" Diane asked.

"I live in Rockford. Ray's in my math class." Giselle was annoyed.

"Neither Ray nor I have ever lived anywhere near Rockford."

Giselle let the remark hang in the air for awhile, then decided to change the subject. Diane was lying to her, but why? She didn't know, nor did she have the physical strength or the logical wherewithal to ask why. "Was that you singing?"

Diane had picked up the metal tray Giselle had knocked onto the floor and was sitting on the edge of the bed beside her. There was an old person lying in it, but he or she didn't seem to mind someone else sitting there. "Yeah," Diane said. "If I'd known anyone was listening I wouldn't have been. I can't sing."

"It was beautiful. How's Ray doing?"

"Fine, I guess. He just turned twenty-one. His birthday was yesterday. I got one of the nurses to slip a shot of Jack Daniels into his feeding tube."

"That can't be. He was in high school yesterday," Giselle said.

"He was a junior when he had the accident. That was five years ago. Do the math." Diane spoke sharply, then stopped for a minute and said, "I'm sorry. You've gotta be a little confused."

"Yeah, I am, a little, I guess. Why isn't Peter Jennings on ABC?"

"He died. Of lung cancer."


"A few years ago. Two-oh-oh-five, I think."

"What year is it now?"


"Oh, Christ. I honestly don't get any of this."

"Look, I'm gonna get the nurse. Someone needs to call your husband."

"Husband?" Giselle frowned.


"Oh, my ex, yeah, I forgot. We've been divorced for years."

"I don't think anyone bothered to tell him that."

"Pfssh. Has he been passing himself off as my husband? He lives in a dream world. He's still my lawyer, though, so someone should probably get in touch with him, yeah. If you could have 'em get ahold of Abraham, too, that would be really cool. He'll know what the hell's going on."

"Who's Abraham?"

"Down in Tennessee used to call him The Mayonnaise Man but everyone finally agreed that he could be Abraham Lincoln if he wanted to be. That was fine with me. We have a son. Isaac. Oprah's his grandmother."

"I'll get the nurse." Diane got up and left the room.

Giselle reached over and managed, after a few feeble tries, to find the button on the remote that turned off the television. It was then that she saw what must have been her reflection on the blank screen. The reflection wasn't very clear—the only light in the room came from the other TVs and the LEDs of medical instruments monitoring her and the other patients—but what she could see of herself was hideous. She looked half-bald. She reminded herself of Terri Schiavo, although she had the nagging notion that she had no idea who the fuck Terri Schiavo even was. All Giselle knew was that it had to be her reflection in the turned-off television and at the same time that it couldn't be her reflection.

What the hell had they done to her hair? Holy Christ. Her gorgeous tangles of red and chestnut hair that had blown in so many breezes and had whipped the sides of her face, stinging her cheeks as she drove all scooted down into the bucket seat of her white T-top '89 Firebird, her hair that had always been with her everywhere, doing everything she ever did since she'd been a kid, looked like it had been cut off in gobs with dog clippers. What was left had turned in places to reddish-gray.

She looked like a puppet. She could almost see the strings. Whoever was pulling them had Parkinson's Disease. Her head bobbed up and down and from side to side like it was all her spastic puppet master could do to keep it from falling completely off. Her hair looked like tar and nicotine trapped in the filters of a bunch of cigarettes, twisted and curled, sticking up and plastered down, like someone had compulsively torn apart an ashtray full of cigarette filters and had stuck them with airplane glue to her bobbing, mostly bald head. If by some inconceivable set of weird circumstances Diane wasn't lying to her, if it really was the year two thousand and eight, Giselle was forty-five years old. She did the math but it was still impossible. Her face wasn't even a face; it had her tiny nose, yeah, but the rest of it wasn't her face. She looked at the back of the hand that had turned off the television and there were spots on them, spots the color of tobacco like she'd drooled tobacco juice down her chin in her sleep, down her chin and down her chest and onto her folded hands and it had dried there in spots the color of tobacco. In the reflection from the TV, what both had to be her mouth and couldn't be her mouth was lolling open like Homer Simpson drooling in his sleep. Her eyes had fallen out. Her ears had fallen off. She wasn't sure what consciousness even was anymore but it felt for a minute like she lost consciousness and found herself on an altar at the top of a pile of rocks, a pyramid, maybe, like she was a captive Aztec princess being sacrificed by an Aztec priest with yellow feathers surrounding his head like the sun. He cut into her arm with a stone knife and pulled a skinny, slithering snake out of one of her veins. The wound healed. The priest cut into her chest, where her heart was, pushed her bloody ribs aside and pulled out a bat. It was all wet and its wings were folded. The priest let it go and the bat flew away. Then he cut into the base of her skull, just behind her left ear, and reached in to pull out her brain.

She regained whatever the heck so-called consciousness might have been, opened her eyes and looked up to see Diane and a nurse standing over her bed. The nurse looked like a black Aunt Bee from an old Andy Griffith Show, or Aunt Jemima, maybe. She had on an apron but not a red-and-white checkerboard apron, a pink apron, pink with a white border and a black name tag that said "Felicity" in white letters. Giselle couldn't talk again. She tried but no words came out. She felt frantic. The nurse noticed. She recoiled when she and Giselle looked at each other.

"How long has she been here?" Diane asked.

"Since before me."

"How long has that been?" Giselle asked, suddenly able to talk again.

"Going on seven years." Felicity shook her head. Her neck was fat. She drew the contents of a small, clear bottle into a syringe and expertly stuck the needle into Giselle's upper arm.

While the nurse was giving her a shot, Giselle had the dim recollection of an old story she'd heard—God knows when but she was hearing it again—a story about a woman alone in a chair on a dark and stormy night. The woman hears a knock at her door, opens it and finds a deformed, repugnant figure standing in the rain with thunder rumbling and lightning illuminating the sky behind it who says, "Remember what you flushed down the toilet twenty years ago?" That was the look she'd seen in the nurse's eyes and that was the look she continued to see as everything slowly went away, her reflection in the TV, Diane, the nurse, the needle, the hospital bed, all of it.

Chapter Forty-four

"Welcome back to the land of the living," Dr. Javid said, looking somewhere above Giselle's forehead—at the godawful mess someone had made of her hair, she presumed—over the tops of his black-rimmed reading glasses.

"What the fuck did they do to my hair?" Giselle asked.

"Your hair's fine. It's your head we're worried about," the doctor said.

"Fine, my ass. I saw it. I need to look in a mirror."

"Your hair's the same as it's always been. Very thick and curly," he said in his singsong Iranian accent, bobbing his head from side to side and smiling a shy, possibly somewhat flirtatious, half-smile.

"Can you just please find me a mirror, please? And who the hell's some guy named Dr. Wacholder they think they stuck me with?"

"I know of no doctor by that name." His tone of voice changed, became more clinical, as if he felt rejected, somehow.

"Yeah, well, they know of no doctor by your name."

"Who are they?"

"The people who got rid of my hair!"

"But your hair is still there." His eyes drifted above her forehead again.

Giselle put her hands to her head. Her hair felt okay, but that didn't seem to mean anything anymore. Feel, schmeel, nothing was real. "I seriously need to see a mirror. There's one in my purse." She pushed the sheet off her upper torso exposing a pastel blue hospital gown and turned over onto her right side, toward Dr. Javid.

"You need to stay calm." He patted the sheet covering her knee, went across the room and brought back her purse. Giselle rummaged around until she found the pale green Clinique compact, opened it, looked into the small, round mirror and, sure enough, there was her tiny nose and tangled mass of auburn hair, just like always. She'd recognize herself anywhere. Ha!

"Where the fuck am I?"

"Rockford Memorial. Room three-twenty-three."

She appreciated it that Dr. Javid knew when to dick with her and when not to dick with her. Now was not the time to dick with her. "How long have I been here?"

"Since last night. You gave us a scare."

"Gave who a scare?"

"Me, for one. I don't want my favorite patient buying the farm."

"Buying the farm?"

"It's an expression."

"Yeah, but you don't quite say it right."

"Your mother said I had hardly any accent at all." Dr. Javid spoke each word distinctly if not all that naturally.

"Why were you talking to my mother?" Giselle frowned. It hurt to frown.

"She and your father have been here since morning."

"What time is it"

Dr. Javid glanced at the diver's watch on his hairy wrist. "Going on four o'clock in the afternoon."

"Holy Christ. What day is it?"

"Sunday," he said softly, indulgently. Dr. Javid seemed more solicitous than usual. He also seemed frightened—concerned, maybe. Giselle wasn't sure. She knew he was both a neurologist and a psychiatrist, but she'd never had much use for him as a shrink.

"Sunday," she repeated stupidly. "Sunday, the whath of what?"

"Sunday, the tenth of February."

"That can't be right." She waved her hand. "On Sunday, the tenth of February I was in the Woodfield Mall at four o'clock in the afternoon. Having a croissant and a cappuccino. There were people dressed up like chickens."

"Why were people dressed like chickens?" He frowned.

"Probably from the stupid chicken joke, I don't know." She shrugged. "Wait. What year do you think it is?"


"How whacked do you think my brain could really be?"

"Possibly quite whacked." His accent sounded more Pakistani than Iranian.

"I just woke up in some kind of god damn nursing home, some long-term care facility in Evanston. It was two-oh-oh-fucking-eight and nobody there had ever heard of you. They told me my doctor was some guy named Wacholder."

"More than likely it was a dream. Did the nursing home have a name?"

"Crockett something. Crockett House. I remember 'cause Abraham sang me Davy Crockett the same Sunday you say it is today. At Lord & Taylor's in the Woodfield Mall. It was Chinese New Year. The Year of the Horse. Woo gave me some kind of special red envelope surprise."

"The Year of the Horse is the year it is now, Giselle. They talked about it on Good Morning America." He raised his thick eyebrows toward the television up by the ceiling. "I've heard of Crockett House, however, and it is in Evanston."

"Diane Blovits was there, visiting her son. Ray. I've told you about him, how he's always cracking me up in class. But she acted like she didn't know me, like she didn't know where I lived, like I wasn't her son's teacher, for Christ's sake. I was only awake for twenty minutes or so until some black woman who looked like a cross between Aunt Bee and Oprah Winfrey came in and gave me...holy shit." She stuck the palm of her right hand like a suction cup to her forehead and stopped talking.

"Gave you what?" the doctor asked.

"Oprah fucking Winfrey, Jesus. This is all too much."

"What did Oprah give you?"

"Oprah didn't give me anything, the nurse did. Felicity. That was her name. She was wearing an apron and looked a little like Oprah, that's all. She gave me some kind of knockout shot and I woke up here." Giselle shook her head hard and said, "Ow. Jesus. My head." She took a deep breath and was quiet for a minute. "Hey," she said then. "Listen. I don't want you talking to my mother, okay?"

"She was quite informative, as a matter of fact," the doctor said. "I was not aware of the difficulty...of the circumstances of your birth."

"What circumstances?" She swallowed, then said, "Ow," again.

"That the umbilical cord had coiled around your neck during delivery. That could in part account for the weakness of the intercranial vascular system."

"Umbilical cord, my ass," Giselle said. "She probably choked me."

"Your mother never spoke to you of the difficulty of your birth?"

"Nope. I knew she had a hard time, yeah. I figured that's why she hates me."

"Your mother loves you, Giselle."

"Loves me, my ass. Did she say that?"

"Not in so many words, but she's very concerned, she and your father, both."

"They put on a good show. My father's a pussy. My mother hates my guts. She thinks I wrecked her life. I don't want them around. I'm serious. I want you to write it on my chart. No visitors. I don't want anything to do with either of them."

"You may be making a mistake."

"I don't think so. And if I am, it's my business, all right? No visitors."

"Okey dokey, you're the boss."

"Good. Now. Wow. I have some questions."

"Of course."

"Is there a war anywhere?"

"There's always a war somewhere. We have troops in Afghanistan, hunting down Osama bin Laden."

"But not in Iraq."

"No. There was the war called Desert Storm but that was a long time ago. Saddam Hussein set fire to oil wells toward the end. Red Adair put them out."

"Yeah, yeah, I know all that but there's not a war in Iraq right now?"


"What about Peter Jennings?"

"What about him?"

"Is he dead?"

"Not to my knowledge, no, but very strange things might well be going on in your imagination, Giselle. I have some pictures I can show you if you're up to it."

"I'm as up to anything as I'll ever be," she said.

Dr. Javid came back with X-rays and MRIs and the latest angiogram, which he slipped into a lighted viewing box. Giselle was as familiar with the anatomy of her woebegone brain as anyone. Clear down to the tiniest twig, the blood supply to the interior of her skull looked like a tangle of bare shrubs and leafless trees made visible by the dye—like the moonlight had been, shining through the woods by the river when she was looking for Abraham after Ron Harley pulled them over.

Things had changed some since she'd seen the face of Jesus; but that had been in an MRI, this was an angiogram. "Any fool knows the face of Jesus won't show up in an angiogram," she said to herself and smiled. She hadn't seen an angiogram since she and Dennis had gone up to Rochester. How long ago had that been? Two thousand, maybe? Wait. Nolan was the guy's name. How the hell could Diane have known that? Maybe she had been in a coma. Yeah, well, she wasn't in no god damn coma now. She sighed, shook her head, stopped smiling and asked Dr. Javid, almost rhetorically, "I had another one of my stupid strokes, right?"

"A small aneurysm ruptured. Recently." He pointed to a dark spot.

"Damn. I think I saw it happen."

"How so?" The doctor seemed to be considering the various ways that might have occurred. He always had an open mind to even the most unlikely things Giselle had come up with to wonder out loud about. She adored that about him.

"Oh, I had some kind of vision of a bleeding heart in my head for a minute. Then a lightning bolt came out of nowhere and broke the heart apart, broke my head in two, killed me, knocked me for a loop. I bet that was when I had the stroke."

"Quite possibly," he said.

"How bad could that have whacked out my whole brain?"

"There's no telling. Conceivably very badly. But this is our main concern at the moment," he said, touching a different area. "It's a giant aneurysm in the wall of your internal carotid artery, about which I'm afraid we have to do something."

She knew that an aneurysm was a bulge in the wall of one of the arteries which supplied blood to her brain. She and Dr. Javid had talked about aneurysms ad nauseam. A bunch had burst already. Every time one of the little fuckers blew up she'd had another stroke. He had described an aneurysm as being "like a weak spot in a balloon." That made sense. Giselle used to hate it when balloons broke. She used to burst into tears. Mame was always giving her balloons. They were always breaking. Giselle was always bursting into tears. The balloons were her friends. Then Mame showed her a trick.

"Hand me what's left of your poor broken balloon, dear."

Giselle handed it to her. Mame sucked the skimpy little bit of cold broken balloon into her mouth and made it into a bubble. Then she twisted it and twisted it, tighter and tighter, until it was about to break, bopped herself on the head with the tiny new balloon and—Bang!. It broke all over again. Giselle laughed. She learned how to make new little balloons out of old broken balloons, herself. She learned how to twist them tight and bop them on her head and break them again and again. She broke them on her arms and on the kitchen table and on rocks and in the palm of her hand. Sometimes she put them into her mouth and bit them until they exploded between her teeth and made her tongue tingle and her ears ring and pretty soon she was having more fun with the broken balloon than she'd had with the balloon before it broke and didn't cry anymore when balloons broke. She got to where she was breaking balloons on purpose. She'd take a straight pin out of Mame's bright red pincushion and pop a brand new balloon just to have a broken balloon to make into new little balloons to bop on things, to pop on things, all sorts of things, anything—even Mame's head. Ha!

Lots of people had brain aneurysms, a few million just in the United States, Dr. Javid had told her. As long as the little buggers didn't burst, they weren't any big deal—and most of them didn't burst, they just went away. If one did burst, however, well, that was a whole different ballgame—as Dr. Javid had, on several occasions, explained in exquisite, graphic detail, along with the latest treatment options. The latest treatment options were simple. One: do nothing. Two: have some surgeon shave her head, saw open up her skull and clip the aneurysm off at its stem. Or three: stick a catheter into her femoral artery, run it into her brain, and get rid of the aneurysm by filling it with some kind of newfangled platinum coil thing. Those were her choices: leave it alone, clip it off or fill it with a platinum coil.

The biggest aneurysms were called giant aneurysms. That stood to reason. Fewer people had giant aneurysms; only a few hundred thousand a year. Now Giselle had a giant aneurysm in the wall of her internal carotid artery. Rats. But even a giant aneurysm wouldn't cause much trouble unless it ruptured. The doctor had told her that, too. Giant aneurysms were more prone to rupture, however, and when one did, well, it was pretty much all she wrote. She would, more likely than not, simply drop dead. Buy the farm. Ha! And, if she didn't die, she would, again more likely than not, have varying degrees of brain damage. She could end up brain dead; she could end up a vegetable. Chances of a complete recovery from a ruptured giant brain aneurysm were approximately one in six.

"Do something like what?" Giselle looked more carefully at the angiogram.

"Do something like one of the treatment options we've discussed."

"I'm not letting anyone shave my head," she said. "So it's that coil thing or nothing. We have to worry about it before it blows up, right?"

"The likelihood is that it will, Giselle, and by then it will be too late."

"So the answer is yes?"


"Another one already blew up and I'm still here, right?"

"This is different." He pointed to the picture again. "It's massive."

"You said chances were one in six that I'd be okay even if one of them massive motherfuckers did blow up."

"One in six are not good chances."

"Here's my problem. God, I don't know where to begin. Do you have time to listen to some weird-ass shit?"

Dr. Javid glanced at his watch again, then pulled his chair up closer to the side of Giselle's hospital bed and said, "I have some time, yes." Then he said, more thoughtfully, "Sure. I'll tell you whatever I can, whatever I know."

"Which isn't really a lot," she said.

"Right. What anyone knows isn't much, Giselle." Dr. Javid took out a gold Cross Pen from breast pocket of his white hospital jacket, opened a thin manila folder and tapped the pen against a pad of writing paper. "I'll do the best I can."

"Do you have to be somewhere?"

"Not right away, no."

"Could you do me a favor, then?"

"Anything you want," he said in a way that made her feel like she was on death row, like she was ordering her last meal.

"Don't keep looking at your watch."

"Okey-dokey," he said.

"Could you also not say 'okey-dokey.'"

"It's a bad habit, you're absolutely right."

"Okay. What I want to know," she said and stopped. "Jesus. The weirdest things have been happening. I want to know...I need to know what's going on. For my own peace of mind...my sanity or what the fuck ever." She waved her hand. Her throat was constricted. Her lips were trembling. She swallowed. She composed herself as best she could. The last thing she wanted was to get all weepy.

"Weird, like how?" Dr. Javid pinched the pen between his fingers like he was all set to start writing stuff down. Giselle liked that.

"Weird like what's been going on in my head is more real than anything I've ever imagined, than anything I've ever known, than anything I've ever experienced. Weird like it was so natural that those people were dressed up like chickens, so understandable that they came out of a joke in my head. Now it's understandable. Then it wasn't. Weird like beyond any reality I've ever known. I just had more than a whole day's worth of stuff happen in what must have been less than an hour. That's what you're saying, isn't it? That it's Sunday? Okay, so, Saturday night I saw a bleeding heart and a lightning bolt crashed my head and a whole day went by—or maybe a whole six years if you can believe what you see on TV—and they brought me here an hour later? That's what you think the facts...or whatever you want to call them...are?"

"Basically." He looked at her chart in the folder. "You were admitted at around eleven o'clock last night and regained consciousness when you did, just now."

"So yesterday it was Saturday and today it's Sunday?" It somehow didn't sound like the completely moronic question it sounded like.

"Sunday afternoon, yes. Can you summarize for me what occurred during the time you were not conscious?"

"No. At first I kept thinking it might have been a dream, but then I started having real dreams, too, so I knew it couldn't be a dream, you know? Like I'd fall asleep and be in a jungle following a fat, pregnant black woman with a ring of jingle bells on her ankle dancing down a dirt path toward a lagoon. She looked kind of like Oprah...and that was before I even knew all the stuff about Oprah. Then Arabs with belts of bullets on their shoulders were chasing me until Jesus came along and scared them off and Oprah danced into the lagoon and a big blue fish bit her in half and a little green fish leaped out of her bloody belly and swam along behind its mother. Can you have a dream inside a dream? Dream you're dreaming?"

"Sure," the doctor said, tapping the pen lightly. "A billion bright, thoughtful, considerate people in India believe all anyone can ever know is Lord Vishnu's dream. That you don't do anything on your own. If you drink a glass of water, that's Vishnu dreaming that you're drinking a glass of water. It's endless, timeless, dreams within dreams within dreams, each more real than the next. You have a giant aneurysm in a very sensitive region of your brain, Giselle."

"Yeah, no shit."

"There's a medical condition known as temporal lobe epilepsy that causes people to believe and to describe in great detail stranger things than one would think imaginable. That may have been where the notion of Vishnu's dream came from in the first place—same with the teachings of Plato and Lao-Tzu and Buddha and Christ and Moses and Muhammed. The greatest works of art and literature and music are all quirks of the same three pounds of neurons inside a human skull. There is simply no telling what all the mind can manufacture. Brains make up things all the time, mostly mundane things, but given the right conditions some are quite spectacular."

"Like that epilepsy thing?"

"Or an aneurysm in the right location, yes. There are those who say that Muhammed's seven heavens and houris and the fountains of paradise and his ascent from the Temple Mount and The Holy Qu'ran itself were metaphorical figments of his imagination arising out of temporal lobe epilepsy."

"Well, my brain manufactured itself some spectacular shit," she said.

"I do not doubt it. I've studied the capabilities of the human mind for decades and what I know is next to nothing." He stood up abruptly, pulled the angiogram from the light panel, brought it over to her bedside, held it in front of her face and pointed with the pen to a tangle of blood vessels, one of which was huge. "There's literally no telling what effects it may be having—language, emotions, learning, memory—all sorts of things can be being affected. What I do know is that it needs to be dealt with ASAP...as soon as possible."

Giselle reached for the picture. She held it in her hands and looked at it against the light above the sink on the other side of the hospital room. The bulge looked like a tiny fetus all curled up in one corner, like her brain was a womb. "Can it do anything weird enough to get me pregnant?" she asked.

Dr. Javid returned the angiogram to the light panel, sat back down beside her and made a quick note in the folder on his lap. "Not purely as a result of brain activity, no," he said and looked over his glasses and smiled his sweet, shy smile—the one that reminded her of Abraham.

"What about immaculate conception?" she asked.

The doctor leaned slightly forward in his chair. "There are those who say that with God all things are possible so, according to them, you can't definitively rule out anything. According to what I know of God, all things are possible—subatomic particle physics and quasars and black holes and string theory and life. Oh, my." He put his hand to his forehead. "Yesterday in a meadow I saw a sparrow chasing a moth. Each of them had its own intelligence, its own instincts, pitted instant after instant against the other. The bird flew mind-boggling fastly, up and down, inside, outside, around and around, but the moth was even faster, quicker, more agile. One maneuver after another they hovered above a million blades of miraculous grass and wildflowers in the meadow, tearing to and fro, the bird after the moth, the moth away from the bird, faster than the blinks of eyes. It became an impossible dance, a work of impossible art. One sparrow. One moth. Multiply that by a billion galaxies and add intuition. Nobody was dreaming it."

"Not even Lord Vishnu?"

"I don't think so, no...but, maybe." He shook his head and looked sad. "What I know of God is infinitely less than what I know of the human mind and what I know of the human mind is very, very little—a single bacteria in the Gulf of Persia has more knowledge of all the oceans on earth than I have of God."

"What would he say?"


"The bacteria."

Dr. Javid smiled. "I picture him as a comedian, a very small standup comic, about to speak at great length about all the oceans." He holds his thumb and finger half-an-inch apart. "I cannot help but chuckle in my mind sometimes. He has a tiny microphone and a spotlight is shining on him like Jerry Seinfeld. 'The ocean that can be known is not the ocean,' the bacteria begins." Dr. Javid's eyes brimmed-up.

"How nuts would you think I was if I told you I got pregnant while I was unconscious? During that whole day you say didn't happen?"

"Not very nuts at all, Giselle. The Virgin Mary is a powerful symbol. Given the size of the aneurysm and it's location, I would not be surprised by anything you think may have happened."

"Are you saying I can't be pregnant?"

"I can order a pregnancy test, if you like."

"Yeah. I'd like that. Is there a test you can do to tell if I've already had a kid while you're at it?"

"No problem." He made another note in the folder. "What makes you think may be pregnant, Giselle?" Dr. Javid settled back into his chair again, with the gold pen poised in his dark, hairy right hand.

"'Cause some guy fucked my brains out, that's what." She felt herself starting to react emotionally again, like it wouldn't take much to push her over the brink into an embarrassing hysterical outburst about how not only was she pregnant but she'd somehow given birth to the kid and his name was Isaac and his grandma was Oprah and his grandpa lived in a cabin on a mountaintop in Tennessee.

"Who?" He frowned.

"Who what?" She was distracted.

"Who fucked your brains out?" She detected a hitch of jealousy in Dr. Javid's voice. She and her aneurysm may have been imagining it, however. Ha!

"Abraham," she said.

"Abraham who?"

"Abraham Lincoln. It's a long story."

Dr. Javid made another entry in the manila folder. "When?" he asked.

"That first night."

"Which first night?"

"That first Saturday night. The Saturday night that happened before the Sunday we went to the Woodfield Mall and saw the people dressed up like chickens. We picked up Oprah and dropped her off in the parking lot of a golf course down in Byron...the same Sunday night you're telling me isn't even here yet! Okay, okay. Fuck. The night they brought me here, I vaguely remember."

"Last night? Saturday night?"

"If you say so." She put her hands to the sides of her head and closed her eyes. "That's the problem, right there. I remember these EMT guys, a black woman and a super white guy, like an albino. They brought me to the hospital. I remember telling them, 'Rockford Memorial.' But when I woke up I was at that Crockett House place, and it was fucking six years from when you say now is! Charlie Gibson was doing the ABC Nightly News 'cause Peter Jennings died of lung cancer. Do you just want to hear the whole story?"

"In whatever the best way will be for you to tell me, yes. I do. Very much," Dr. Javid said, making what appeared to be a conscientious effort not to look at his watch. "Take your time."

"God, help me," she said.

Previous, Part Ten

Next, Part Twelve


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Gerard Jones
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