“All war presupposes human weakness and seeks to exploit it.”
—Carl Von Clausewitz; “On War”
When both my parents abandoned me to die, pretty much together, it felt like Dad, bucking even the god of death, blew all of himself into me. I felt almost like a woman possessed by a demon. I felt him. I couldn’t not feel him.
In August 2014 I knew I had to force him aside to hear my Mother’s more quiet voice. Actually, that sounds like an amputation, a refutation, when what it was, was a deal. An understanding. He pointed and I followed. It wasn’t goodbye. We could never not be linked. I always understood him – even at his worst, even when I didn’t want to understand him, even when I despised understanding him – I still understood him far easier than I ever understood my mother. (Although I definitely liked her better most of the time.)
But the time came when I had learned what I needed from him, and I had no question that to survive I needed her.
No one could share a stage with my father. If he was on the stage at all, he was on all the stage.
With Mom, you had to pay proper attention.
Almost superhuman attention. But she understood that Wisdom doesn’t go on sale. There’s no bargain basement priced Wisdom. If you want Wisdom, you must pay Wisdom’s price.
And you pay by paying attention.
After awhile you would learn what a huge reward came with your rare successes. It wasn’t easy, but Wisdom isn’t cheap. Nothing of lasting value can be gained without toil. Without scars. “Every hurt is a lesson.” (“Just so”)
Dad was a gregarious cheerleader of a father. He loved letting me be me. He almost never criticized. Never said no. I was a good child; not greedy or spoiled, and Dad was naturally generous and non-judgmental, and so he had the luxury of being able to play the role of the sucker father wrapped around his little girl’s finger. Mom was good. She was shockingly insightful but just as childlike. If you didn’t know her you could mistake her for a ditz. She actually went for that sometimes.
It allowed her to watch more closely. She was a hawk disguised as a pigeon. And as a hawk, she realized how little downside there was to being thought a pigeon, because unlike a pigeon, the actions or opinions of others are largely irrelevant to a hawk. But hawk or not, she loved me with undivided loyalty. She lived her life for me. And her kindness seeped into me in a way that I still feel, and still feels almost magical.
I have never met a single soul who reminded me of my mother. Not even a little bit.
So, despite being quite dead, I had no doubt she had much to teach me.
That is, if I paid proper attention.
So I did. And because she understood that dead mothers’ have much more influence than living ones, she thought ahead. I have learned so much from her. It’s been the most amazing experience of my life, and I have had a at least a few amazing experiences in my life. Okay. Yes, I’ve had enough amazing and unbelievable experiences for ten lifetimes. I don’t want any more.
But it seems I need just one more. Just one. There was a time when I couldn’t help but think of drawing on my carnival barker-like skills of my father in this mission, but not anymore. Close to two years ago I had more than enough explosives to know that only one little spark would be enough for everything to blow, and I both dreaded that thought, but also couldn’t figure out where the fuse was. I didn’t know how to knock the first domino over, and so I would fall back on the stagecraft thinking. It turns out that, difficult as it was to temper my nature and my own experiences watching my father’s magic tricks, all those thoughts turned out to be distractions, anyway. There would be no short cut here. Finally I did the only thing left for me: I tried to buckle down and insert some discipline into my world. And despite doing a piss-poor job of it, even the little I’ve been able to manage has taken me home. I thought I had found everything anyone could hope to find a month ago. But I was really, really wrong. And it was my father who brought me full circle. Brought us full circle, really. And like Batmish, it’s in something he did quietly. Something good and decent. And pretty amazing. Something that turned Dick Clark’s bullshit into the absolute best thing that could have ever happened to me, and therefore to my children, which is all I ever cared about anyway. Although again, the payoff is almost the opposite of what I was expecting. Instead of a monetary reward, the truth pretty much ensures that I have no claim to cash at all, and yet manages to be far better than a straight payday. Dad didn’t know when he died what would happen to TAMI, but he gave me enough to figure it out. Just enough. And until I solved the puzzle I couldn’t find the proof, because until I had solved the puzzle I couldn’t know what to look for. And even then, despite knowing I had figured it out, seeing it is still a wonder. And not just because he’s my father. What he did is amazing. What he did will turn everything on its head, and while it won’t give me any dough, it may very well shower some serious money on some other heirs.
But now that I’m here, fuses all around me, more open roads than I can ever take advantage of, the uncertainty of failure all but impossible, my past rises up to confront me. Not my past actions, but my past experiences. I give up my right to be left alone. To be nobody. Dad’s fame was nothing on the scale of what most think of as fame and still it was such an exhausting, reality-twisting mindfuck. This is likely to give him far more fame than he ever had in life. But he’s dead, and I’m not, at least not yet. So yeah, I have no choice. I already had reason enough to throw myself to the wolves, but now with the added dimension of my father finally, truly, earning honor in my eyes, in a way I never expected, I can’t weasel my way out of this mess. I’ve been able to hide in plain sight for awhile. It was nice in some ways despite being awful in others. I think I’ll keep this place whatever happens, though. I feel safe here. Even if I get another place I want to keep this as a hideaway. And I’ll need people close to me I can trust. I know the first name on that list.
But I also need Dad’s shocking kick of spice back. I need him and I need her. Both. Balanced and ballasted. I have an embarrassment of riches in supplies. The last few months, culminating last weekend with the Holy Grail of discoveries, I have all I need to go forward. Everything but the act of just taking the step. The stakes just went up and no matter how it turns out for me I must do this right. And to do that I must have the audacity of my father and the cunning of my mother. The unshakable belief in my ability to do what needs done, damn the torpedoes, but to combine it with the watchfulness and care, and sight of my mother.
I’ve realized that there will never come a time when I can save myself and my son both. So I have to choose. It’s only selfishness that has made me hold onto the hope that there was some way to straddle that fence. Selfishness wrapped in a desperate kind of love, but still in the end, selfishness.
So I choose. Once I faced squarely the fact that there was no path that could reasonably save us both there was no choice.
There is no choice.
But if there’s one thing I have learned from my dead parents it’s that words from a dead parent are more powerful than the words from a living one. Do not misunderstand me, I want to live. I have, at every juncture, tried to see around every corner and minimize every risk, but the problem is that around every corner… I’m screwed. But you never know. Maybe I’ll get lucky. Although the window for a freebie kill has passed. I’ve always said that Tony would have gotten away with murdering me, and no one ever seems to believe me. But Tony knows, and I know, that he absolutely would have. Now, whatever they think their worst nightmare is, they don’t have half the imagination to foresee what I’ve prepared for them in the event of my untimely demise or disappearance. (Yes, I know I switched from singular to plural, and that’s because Tony has had the benefit of a well-armed – metaphorically speaking – sidekick. I happened upon a secret he’s been hiding and therefore a second, serious bounty was placed on my head, and having the same goals and the same nature, they wisely joined forces. So, they.)
How did Tony side-swipingly refer to him? That’s right, “a friend of a friend ATF Agent.”
A friend of a friend?
Friend? Not untrue but also not exactly true. There’s only one person that could be. No matter. Mr. ‘a friend’ is smart. Smart in fact, in many of the exact same ways I’m smart. No coincidence there. But unlike me, he hasn’t learned how deadly thinking you’re smart can be. He hasn’t been knocked down for that mistake, again and again. And unlike me, both Tony & friend are encumbered by the serious task of self-protection, keeping up with all the lies they’ve told, racing to plug every leak in their rafts, haunted by nightmares of something they might be missing. I, however, sleep the peaceful sleep of the dead; the dead assured of resurrection. Resurrection through my voice from beyond the grave. There are no words so powerful as the provable words of truth spoken by a dead woman. You can fight the words of the living just as they’ve done so far: by aiming at the life, not the words. Squelch the power of the person and you silence her words.
The dead play by different rules.
So while I hope to live, I’ve accepted the reality that I very well may not. Fear, real fear, makes people take stupid risks, and make no mistake, getting rid of me would be the biggest mistake they could make. (Which doesn’t mean they won’t try.) And while there most certainly was a window where I could have been gotten rid of without consequence, that time is now long past. Their boats will sink. The only question now is how, or whether, they come through it. And ironically, the only thing that can possibly soften the blow of the house they built collapsing on them, is me. The person they tried to bury under it. They can’t possibly be foolish enough to think that making me disappear will silence me. Of all the obvious things to prepare for, surely they can’t delude themselves enough to believe that I wouldn’t prepare for that. And if I’m alive, there’s at least some chance of combating my words.
The moral of this story is that the words of the dead echo into eternity.
If I’m gone, my last words will be all anyone hears. And that’s as it should be, because sooner or later the truth must out. “Dead men tell no tales” is almost as stupid a saying as “a few bad apples…”
[…spoil the bunch]
There’s only one way out. I have to hope that I’ve done all I can in preparation. That I have not missed anything vital. That I have respected the strength, skill, and motivation of my adversaries, who have everything to lose.
But if I disappear or die, they will lose their only defense, and all the work they’ve put into constructing “me” will be lost, because if I’m not here, they’ll be left with people they can’t stain.
So they have to be careful.
And I have to stop being careful.
That’s the trick I have to play. To move from over-caution to absolutely none. I can’t half-light a fuse. I still have a few loose ends to tie up, but nothing big. If I’m not here those loose ends disappear and everything goes forward faster, except doused in gasoline. You know how much people like their true crime stories these days? That’s the only thing that would make it worth it. Consider me strapped with dynamite, dynamite I very much hope doesn’t go off.
It only goes off if I disappear, or have an… accident. Or someone tries to get me thrown behind bars somewhere, which may be their first play. But it’s the one I’ve been preparing for the longest, with good reason: it’s the one I feared the most.
Also, although I’m a pain in the ass, good people who I absolutely don’t deserve as friends are my friends, and my neighborhood isn’t like what you’re used to dealing with. The people are good. But they’re their own kind of good, and they’ve got eyes in the backs of their heads.
I didn’t mean to go into all that nonsense. I’m sure it seems somewhat dramatized for effect, but the opposite is true. Either way, I’m coming through and I’ll need all help I can get, from the dead and the living alike.
Batmish says “bait.”
Yup, Batmish, bait.
Bait, indeed, Batmish. Bait, indeed.
“There are cases in which the greatest daring is the greatest wisdom.”
P.S. I went back and forth stuffing in lines in odd places so there will be mistakes, and I am always grateful to anyone kind enough to point them out. You can comment anonymously here.
“And what do we say to the God of Death?”