By Mark Lax 2011
Lying to a Valkyrie is very bad mojo. Best bet is to go with an incomplete answer and hope that her
gnat-like attention span won’t allow a follow up. “Mister Snookums does.”
(He enjoys the possibility of dry humping. End of sentence. )
I am almost to the barn. Ms. Swan has halted and is not moving. She is looking down at her book.
“You are very far over from last quarter.”
“Last quarter you told me I was way under. This jackal headed exchange student One Eye brought
in is screwing everything up. I know Ragnarok was getting old, but this Maat thing is impossible.”
Worse. Now she’s heading back into her hut. “You need to refund. The Orange County.”
“Look, if we amortize Orange County into the future, no bad financial thing will ever happen again.
And it’s a little too late for that. We’ve been over this. I had to bankrupt Orange County. It was a
parley card that would have made a Las Vegas casino blush. It’s not my fault the money vanished
completely. I didn’t invent derivates.”
(I didn’t either. But it was a neat trick.)
I might as well be talking to a freaking stone. All she knows is that the richest county in the richest
state of the richest country went belly up. I really didn’t help it. That much.
Ms. Swan comes back out with a palm sized bottle which she hands to me. I know what it is, but I can’
t recall it exactly at the time. The fluid inside is thick and purple with bubbles like Prell. It’s a lot of it.
A killer dose.
“Let us take a look at what you have this time. Maybe this is refund enough, no?” she says,
heading for the barn.
“I have the usual,” I say, trailing after her. “Unearned smiles, public displays of couth, religious
I would add unpracticed wit, but I want to get out of here. Provoking her will get me nowhere. I look
at the bottle. It comes to me. “Cosmic Awareness?”
“Five ounces. Fast acting concentrate,” she says, undoing the sheepskin from the first line of
For just a moment the Bangladesh National Cricket Team has a fighting chance in their test against
Then Ms. Swan says “No more the sports. Pfft.”
This woman can bench press a bus. She can outrace thunder. But ask her what a valid sport is and
she will answer ‘Rhythmic Gymnastics.’ Or Figure Skating. I refuse to side on those. Ditto the
abundant singing contests. And the only dance contest I am going to rig is one where participants
dance till they drop—drop dead.
I protest “Sports are the easiest way I have of making my point. Just the NFL playoffs alone—“
“—No sports. Enough with the Yankees.”
“If I didn’t rig it, he would win every year.”
“Something important,” she says with a ‘that is final’ inflection.
Do I want to surf or don’t I? I want to surf. This closes the books. Thor doesn’t surf. Odin won’t surf.
Tyr might surf. I will surf. This will get done.
May I say right here that I blew it. I was entirely aware of Roberto Sanchez’s plan to use his
tax refund to buy a big screen TV, even though he and his wife had agreed to spend the
money on school clothes for the kids. It was on my clipboard. I had it circled in red. I had it
marked ‘hot’. I didn’t look at the clipboard. No one is perfect. Entirely my bad.
Instead of the clipboard, I went to my filing system. This is comprised of index cards filed behind
categories which I have listed in order of occurrence pertaining to various topics. When prompted
by a mandate such as this one, I rely on this key word mechanism to guide the direction of my
Strike that. Did I mention that I wanted to go surfing? I have this shoe box full of index cards with key
words written on them which are filed under random headings. Each key word references a
collection of loose leaf notes stored somewhere in a Piggly Wiggly grocery sack, most of which I
made while blind drunk. Under the category of Cosmic Awareness there was one card. The three
key words read:
Three Hour Speech.
I have no idea what it means. I whisper it into the sail of my boat and its starts the descent to
Midgard, Midrash, Midlothian, Middlesex , Midwherever. Just through the clouds, I dial my honey.
She is in Denver. Her laptop cannot access the camera at the dog hotel. I assure her that it will
once she gets out of the airport. Our connection is spotty. I tell her the problem is on my end and
that I will phone again shortly.
Below me is a patch of green on a seeming bluff surrounded by a sprawl of brown and grey tin
buildings. Many very impressive structures are on the bluff, with columns and statues of grim faced,
beret clad figures. The bluff is partitioned off from the mass of tin shacks by a fence covered with
razor wire. Concrete shacks on three story pylons are at each of the fence’s corners.
My brown Piggly Wiggly sack has shaken forth the right brief. It is written on the back of
lithographed instructions detailing care for my Auto Polo mallet, a thing long gone into the Topeka
muck. I do not believe the words on the back are in any way contemporaneous with the mallet,
“The Three Hour Speech is an affliction usually perpetrated by post Hitler-era dictators, the national
organizers of trade associations for macroeconomic commodities and certain pastors previously
affiliated with Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God. Its form was first standardized by
Raul Castro and then perfected by his brother, Fidel. The speech has three parts, the third of
which contains the Autdtraumagique: the place wherein application of Cosmic Awareness to the
speaker will do the universe the most good.”
Question: Does this mean I have at least two hours shot to hell? (Not Hel, who is a relatively nice
person.) Answer: You betcha.
Our setting is the interior of a cement aircraft hangar. You may note that I neglected to describe an
airport or even airstrip upon my dropping in. Not a mistake on my part. The airport never quite got
beyond the ‘having the construction materials stolen’ phase. Many of the shacks outside the fences
date back to that time. Normally this space is reserved for two 1970s era French Mirage Jet
Fighters which do not, in point of fact, fly. They have been removed from the hangar for the
evening and are rotting into the ground outside for a change.
Lining the walls of the small hangar are unfolded wooden grandstands, the kind used in the first
world for seating folks at school sports games. The people here are standing in these stands as
opposed to sitting. Beyond the stands there are two lines of unadorned folding chairs. There is no
stage, only an oval of blank flooring and a mobile podium at the front of the chairs.
All some four hundred people in attendance here are dressed in brown business suits with white
dress shirts and narrow black ties. (J.C. Penny $125.00.) Even the women. (J.C. Penny $250.00.) It’
s eighty. It’s humid. The arrays of half burnt out klieg lights shining down from the ceiling aren’t
helping things any.
The people in the chairs are older or less firm of body. They do not seem to be any more important
than those in the stands. In any case, none of them have been asked to speak, either.
All the talking will be done by Big Gumby. (Thank Odin for small favors. The last thing a three hour
speech needs is a warm up act.) Our man is slight and short. His jet black, greasy yet somehow fly-
away infested hair, is parted on the side. The brown suit he wears is slightly better pressed than the
rest. (Sears $300.00.) His Tom Selleck mustache is much better trimmed than the rest, especially
He doesn’t mess around and gets straight to a paint by numbers rendition of “Our Triumph Over
The Obvious.” (He did briefly have someone take roll.) Everyone remains standing. They will stand
for all three hours. It is apparently a defense against nodding off or wetting oneself.
It’s like an opera. Strike that. Some opera is actually good. It’s like the freaking Ring Cycle, which is
never good. The first part of the speech is called “Our Triumph Over The Obvious.” In this the Big
Gumby explains that he and his enterprise are not dead yet. It’s kind of existential. The Iranian
model of this is a one hour chant of ‘Death to America’ followed by historical denial. Many other
places, this is a chance for a riff against the IMF, World Bank or WTO. Someone will not give you
money or wants you to pay back the money you have already utterly squandered, generally on
hydroelectric projects. Back in the day it was all about embargos and attempting to redefine the
term ‘Human Rights.’
Big Gumby begins by detailing progress in completely humiliating his country’s indigenous peoples.
Thus far he is damn proud to have moved these people out of the jungle and into concentration
camps. Now if he could only make their young folks proper soldiers and prostitutes. He does not
trust any of the young men, and until he does, he is going to have the entire camp woke up at
dawn. They will drill in circles until dusk with wooden guns. The young girls, whom he has had
spirited off to Asian brothels, have proven very inept at practicing birth control. But, he stresses,
this has had a positive side effect. Many of the products of these mistakes may conceivably pass as
Asian or European. Mexican lawyers have been contacted to facilitate the selling of these children
to first world plutocrats. In all of this he is very chipper, almost triumphant.
Mind you, all in attendance are committed social activist types. We even have women dressed as
Groucho Marx here. Yet none of them blink when he mentions the forced assimilation of the
indigenous people. It seems a matter of settled fact that these people are useful only as troops or
servants. That he has no problem with the IMF or WTO is primarily because no one would think of
giving him money.