KWM: Al Zawahiri Doesn’t Eat Here Anymore / Some Really Secret Monkey Business / Slovenia’s Got One!

Chapter Fourteen

Al Zawahiri Doesn’t Eat Here Anymore

Okay, here’s the Todd Fullmer piece that pegged him as a loose cannon and may have had something to do with his interest in an assassination that has received little attention even in the country where it occurred:

I suppose you could say I was a patriot even before the Patriot Missile. I may still be a patriot. But today I’m not proud to be an American. Yesterday the saga of political assassination reached a new nadir when three American predator drones—which I mention blandly as if they were an everyday phenomenon (more to come on those devils)—destroyed with their missiles a compound of three houses in a remote village in Pakistan near the Afghan border, killing 18 people, none of whom was Al Zawahiri, supposed mentor of Osama bin Laden, the presumed, and indeed announced, target of the assault. The word intelligence has been used loosely for some time now, so when American sources say their intelligence had Al Zawahiri dining in one of the three houses obliterated, I am not surprised that he wasn’t there at all. If they stated that their intelligence was up deep in their own colons I might believe them. But even a predator drone would have a difficult time finding it without being noticed. Then again, given the level of said intelligence, maybe it could. Imagine some fat fingered and fatuous American military fuck slapping at his own bunghole muttering questioningly, ‘Sumpen up dar?’ How do you believe in an afterlife when this is the kind of life we have to witness and endure? Yet, I in my idealistic naiveté do imagine an afterlife, if only to have John Fitzgerald Kennedy with me when I report on an assassination. Here’s his commentary on his own: ‘See how they managed it? Several gunmen, all shooting individual bullets at me, me!, intending to kill me, killing only me. Just like with the Archduke—at least they tried just to kill him. Shit, I could have killed Castro if I accepted a dozen or more ancillary casualties, but you just can’t do that. You kill Castro and that’s it. It’s not even a matter of fair play—it’s a matter of humanity. Look at Jacquie, the life she had after they got me. Not bad, eh? Well good on her. She’d been through hell. If they would have shot her, too, if they would have tossed a grenade into the car…well, I wouldn’t be so understanding.’ Christ! Even Stalin killed them one at a time. And he always got his man, woman or child, too. Reports from Pakistan will of course emphasize that among the 18 were some women and children, but in a case like this what is the fucking difference? What if it were nine grown men? Then it would be okay? What if it were nine grown men, and one Al Zawahiri? What if it were nine grown men, one Al Zawahiri, one Osama, one Lukaschenko, and three dwarf rapers? This is what Americans are doing now? Some kid on a ship in the Arabian Sea sitting at a computer like he’s playing some goddamn computer game—well he is, actually—is maneuvering planes without pilots armed with deadly missiles, often even accurate, quite unfortunately so in this case, while peasants sit around a table eating with their hands, praising god in their innocence, living off the little they have and their love for each other, and this kid on the ship, one hand playing with his balls like all kids on computers are wont to do, types in the code, presses the button, and they all get blown to pieces. This is what Americans are doing now? I remember the first predator drone assassination I know of committed by Americans—2002 in Yemen. Targeted terrorist torn to bits along with five others in the car. I let it go. I had a momentary reservation, but I had something else going on and I told myself that the government announced the killing of one particular terrorist because he was on a list or something, but the others in the car were killers, too, and I let it go. But deep inside me was a voice, JFK, asking me Is this what Americans are doing now?

As I have noted elsewhere, no less than 25 Roman emperors were assassinated.  It seemed like a lot at the time. Imagine if it were 25 American presidents. Now 18 Pakistani villagers have been assassinated in one attack. 25 Roman emperors doesn’t seem like so many. And 25 American presidents seems like a good idea. What was that? What did Fullmer just write? Yes, you got it, that’s what American reporters are writing now.

Anything wrong with that? Gonzo!

Chapter Fifteen

Some Really Secret Monkey Business

The amazing thing about an assassination like the Kennedy business is that secrets are so hard to keep, yet the conspiracy remains un(entirely)resolved. Nobody really knows for sure, not even Skip, though he thinks he does. The only known instance of monkey assassination, revealed right now for the first time, was actually recorded by Jane Goodall, herself a victim of assassination, by human hand we have no reason to doubt, but suppressed for fairly obvious reasons. The only other human witness was an internee who was beside her when a rival chimp speared the head chimp from a tree, with a spear stolen from a nearby human forest tribe. There was no question it was intentional and planned. Goodall swore the student to silence, and the student kept silent. She had written a few lines summarizing the event before Goodall discussed with her the implications of the assassination becoming public knowledge, but she forgot to destroy the notes. Somehow, someone gained access to the notes, and without bad intentions forgot about it until the moment when she found it irresistible to say, Promise you won’t tell anybody this…And word eventually got around to one of our most reliable sources who broke into the student’s (she was by then a professor at Drake University) house and photographed the notes which were by then under lock and key. Eventually this woman had the determination to burn the notes, but we have seen the photo of the entry and have no reason to suspect its validity, veracity, or the virginity of the notes.

Chapter Sixteen

Slovenia’s Got One!

Assignment Minsk: journalists dropping like flies, Lukashenko berserk.

Todd Fullmer’s flight landed in Beograd, but before he could see much of the city he was at its oddly decrepit and small train station, waiting for a train to Sarajevo. He had always had a vague desire to see where the archduke got shot, see where Gavrilo Princip was standing when he fired the bullets that provided the excuse for World War Two. Not for a minute did Todd Fullmer buy the notion that that assassination was the spark the set off the war. The station at Sarajevo was quite different from that at Beograd, not decrepit so much as abandoned, at the edge of town it seemed, whereas in Beograd it was like a little dirty lot in the center. He stopped for coffee at the one coffee shop that seemed opened, a small shop facing the city itself. The proprietor was an old man who moved slowly and had a gentle ease about him, a desire to talk coupled with an awareness that most people were not the least interested in what he had to say. Todd Fullmer was interested in what everybody had to say so it was without much discomfort that they had begun a conversation. Fullmer was surprised that the man, Samo, assumed he, an American reporter, was not there to see about the famous assassination, rather to take the tour of the remaining evidence of the shelling and sniping of the 90s. Yet Samo didn’t seem appalled at the new phenomenon of war-damage tourism. Todd was, at least initially, but when the conversation turned into a monologue and Samo talked about his personal role in the ‘war,’ Todd began to understand. When a nightmare happens during the day you want it to end but you don’t want others to forget you had it. “See up on that hill? The Serbs were shelling from there. Every window in the city was gone. What was it…I think the UN had to buy 5 million windows for us. Snipers were everywhere. If we knew where they were it wouldn’t have been so dangerous. In the best of cases we knew where they were likely to target. That’s why everybody has the image of us crouching at a corner and then running across an open space. But some places we couldn’t run. The place where I had to get water every day three or four people were killed—every day.” He told it all with a sort of resignation. The story had its own pathos; Samo didn’t need to add any. Yet Todd Fullmer was struck at his lack of bitterness. He would have been bitter. Samo was diabetic and had to spend much of the ‘war’ without insulin. He nearly died several times. The war added twenty or thirty years to his appearance. He was in his early fifties but Todd would have believed him if Samo had said he was 83. He had fought, too. Every two weeks he went out to the battlefields or returned to the city to take care of his family. Apparently a lot of people did that. While it’s true that the Muslims press ganged a number of people, they were also quite understanding about family members. When Samo had returned to the ‘front’ once, he had their full trust and was allowed to come and go as he pleased as long as it was in two week intervals. They talked about how the station itself seemed abandoned. Before the war, Samo told him, there were thousands of people there at all times of the day and night. He had run a highly profitable clothing store, selling clothes he bought in regular runs to Italy. “I had to pass through Slovenia. Have you been there? It’s a beautiful place, and I always liked the Slovene people…” At that point Samo began rambling along a confusing story about two young Slovenes who had recently broken his most important beer mugs in a row that had started over their obscene comments about a waitress he had who wore a miniskirt to draw customers. Todd couldn’t tell if this was before, during or after the war, for aspects of the story clearly placed it in all three time frames. The story ended sadly with the Slovenes paying for the glasses in tolars, Slovene money—which means during or after the war—something Samo had never seen and mistakenly valued at quite too high a rate, as he subsequently found out on a trip to Budapest: “Not even enough for a coffee.” “We had so many customers then” (before the war?), “but those two were so arrogant—yet they didn’t know the difference between me and a Serb. Vuk Drašković had been shot in Montenegro (long after the war) and they were telling what barbarians we all were south of the Kolpa. I said you wait—see what happens to your great Kramberger (shot during the war). Of course, Kramberger wasn’t great, but I knew he was in for it. I had met him in Ljubljana on one of my last trips through. He gave me a spin in his Bugatti.” And seeing this obscure reference intrigued his listener, Samo dropped the story of the rowdy Slovenes and the tragedy of the glasses—something which, perhaps combined with the business about all the broken glass in Sarajevo, Todd was haunted by, labeling it in his mind as Samo’s personal Kristallnacht—and went on to report what he knew about the assassination, which had happened soon after he predicted it would.

Truth be told, there isn’t a lot interesting about a street or a street corner where an archduke was shot 80 or 90 years earlier. The event simply doesn’t resonate. Todd wandered into Baščarčija and became a war tourist, marveling at how the copper smiths turned shells into objects of ambiguous beauty, pounding intricate, classical designs onto these weapons that were trying to destroy them not so long before. He didn’t buy one, though. He was just killing time before the train back to Beograd, in a state of insuppressible excitement over the prospect of investigating this obscure Slovene assassination of a self-made millionaire—something with dialysis machines in Austria or Germany, Samo wasn’t sure—who drove about in a Bugatti he had put together himself, selling his own books, speaking with a monkey on his shoulder, head of the Homeland Peasant Party, which had received a significant—20%?, 30%—of the vote, and been killed by a ‘drunken hunter,’ before Slovenia’s first elections as a free nation.

As soon as he returned to Beograd he wrote his editor, admitting where he was, and exclaimed, Slovenia’s got one!

Meanwhile, we should point out, guess who was sitting at the coffee shop at the train station in Sarajevo listening in on the conversation Todd Fullmer was having with Samo?

Did you guess Mandrake Pizdamonavić? Wrong. Just some shambling shell-shocked shoe shiner without any shoes to shine. Mandrake Pizdamonavić was at that very minute stirring an espresso diligently at the Hotel Balkan in Beograd, sitting by himself, minding his own business (let that phraseology carry the weight you choose.)

Editor’s note: I started The Collidescope so that I could give a home to work that is true to itself rather than diluted by the artless concerns of marketing and audience pandering. The aesthetic of the journal reflects my own tastes, of course: writing that tinkers with the mechanics of language, that itemizes etymology, orchestrates melody, writing that is logistically illogical and acts as the ouija board of voiceless dreams. Rick Harsch’s writing embodies all this and more. I never thought that I’d be serializing an amazing novel from an amazing author. I’m both honored and excited. So dear readers, be sure to bookmark The Collidescope and check back every Sunday for new installments of Kramberger with Monkey: A Comedy of Assassination by Rick Harsch.

Rick Harsch hit the literary scene in 1997 with his cult classic The Driftless Zone, which was followed by Billy Verite and Sleep of the Aborigines (all by Steerforth Press) soon after to form The Driftless Trilogy. Harsch migrated to the Slovene coastal city of Izola in 2001, just as the Driftless books were published in French translation by a French publisher that went out of business a few years later. Rick is also the author of Arjun and the Good Snake (2011, Amalietti & Amalietti), Wandering Stone: the Streets of Old Izola (2017, Mandrac Press), Voices After Evelyn (2018, Maintenance Ends Press), Skulls of Istria (2018, River Boat Books), The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas (2019, River Boat Books) and Walk Like a Duck: A Season of Little League Baseball in Italy (2019, River Boat Books). Rick currently lives in Izola still with his wife and two children.

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