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EVERYBODY IS DOING IT,

I was little in the 1950's and on chest cold, Campbell Chicken soup, saltine days I would cuddle under warm blankets with satin bindings deliciously threaded between my toes. I was allowed to watch television on our scratchy console. I loved Art Linklater's House Party, He was so tidy. Had a checkered tie and a big American smile. He was fair, had red hair and looked foreign to me, a babe of Russian lineage. This was before Art started the cloyingly popular Kids Say the Darnedest Things feature. The show was still searching for an afternoon format..


It was the height of the Cold War. Russia was more than the enemy. It was a looming hulk that refused to be moved.

I knew that because of the late night conversations of my parents and their friends after barbecues, and the float of their raised voices, furious that they had fought the War only to be haunted by hulking maniacs who had stolen the nuclear bomb.


One afternoon, between chalky aspirins and orange juice ,the television screen had a skinny man with a scraggly beard. He did not look like Art. He did not share his dress code. He had a very long Russian name which I later came to know as Alexander Solzhenizyn. How he ended up on a Ladies Afternoon House Party I do not know, but as he began to talk haltingly, I was surrounded by the aura of a very cold, very brutal winter landscape. He described his shoes and how, because he had no socks, the leather grew into his skin and he'd have to work it free every day before he went out to work. And then, he did something bad and they kept him in his cell. It was small. He described how he counted the steps from end to end. How he measured his shrinking height against the door frame. How he counted his teeth and rubbed his fingers against his gums so his teeth would not fall out. Art listened to Alexander. Art could not maintain that faux eye twinkle for which he was so famous. He cut to commercial, and Alexander was gone. In his place was a co host showing Alexander's book and talking about how great it was to be a loyal American and how everyone could read an excerpt in the magazine that was part of the sponsorship of the House Party. Someone thought white

housewives would dig death and starvation next to Betty Crocker ads.


Solzhenitysyn's appearance sure made an impression on me. I became obsessesd with reading all those books about WW2 prison camps( NEVER AGAIN) and internment dramas (ANNE FRANK), and lost prisoner escapades that were everywhere. The WW 2 orphans gave way to The Disappeared of Argentina, the Native American Indian shipped to schools for repatriation and starvation. My dreams brought the vivid mages of restriction and unreasonable incarceration that came with right wing political regimes, I admired the survivors. I didn't know if I could be one,.


And here we are on the brink of a fascist takeover in our own country. Let me be clear eyed and strong enough to say I still believe we will survive as a country and a communal viritual community but it' s damn hard..


I have started my next book. Maybe it will be called THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US. I am fascinated by internal and external heroism and how we would do, are able to cope with extremity that tests our real metal. Am I a survivor? is the fight worth it? Does love save us in the end? Is it the only thing we can count on? And questions like that.


I am listening to Celeste Ng's book OUR MISSING HEARTS, which is also set in a not so implausible dystopian future.. Her story hangs on the ,loss of our hearts, our children, and is compelling and breathless all in one,


I'm not there yet, in my own manuscript, but I have started Carey's flight. I wanted to share it with you. Will you tell me about heroism? And Love? And which you feel would compell you?


I have never felt brave. I pray that it is in the sinew of my construct. In the sinew of al our loving constructs.


CHAPTER ONE

I need to get rid of my iphone. I must be on someone’s tracker, the heat is that intense. The fucking tiles on the market floor sear when my toes stray off my sandal and nip the floor.

I search through the stalls. The flies swarm and the women, who never seem to still, bat them away from their faces with a smack. I remind myself that this is the good part of the day, before the lizards invade the small cottage I am living in, on a beach I had been told was scenic. How do they keep the bananas from going black when they sling them from the tree to the back of those pickups and up to the stalls?

This is my third week here. I moved quickly away from the home I had lived in for thirty years when the fire burned my neighbor’s house and then the one across the street. It was only a matter of time before I was struck. They said it was a random municipal electrical grid malfunction. They said it had nothing to do with my politics and those of my neighbors. The opinions we had so widely and proudly espoused last year, before the change of government. I’m told they are going systematically through the MoveOn.org lists. And, there was a mezuzah on my doorpost. It is clear I am a Jew. And Facebook pronounced my biases, my proclivities and even my location. Let alone what stupid information I proudly broadcast on my I phone.

I am searching for that damn stall that sells local flip phones. Juanita Sanctos told me it was behind the mangoes? My white skin is broadcasting and boiled. There is nowhere that I disappear.

When I left, quickly, my home, that is, I packed a bag, my computer and the six pictures I had determined were the ones worth holding. I looked at the one of my mother standing contentedly in her suburban back yard, a flock of roses in her arms. She had proudly grown them from scratch and into thorny dangerous beauties. And she holds them as if they were children.

She would not have understood my flight. She would have hunkered down. Counted the silver, the china. Hidden the candle sticks like her mother had done in Poland when the Nazis swarmed their village

She smiled benignly at me from the silver frame, as I sat on the plane, on the lam, masked and vulnerable. She had always liked an island vacation. “Let the Saint’s take care of you, Marty,” she had said on more than one occasion to my overworked father. The ‘Saint’s’ she was referring to were the islands of St. Kitts, St Martin, St. Lucia and a few others not so blessed with holy monikers, despite their bloody histories of slavery, domination, rape and pillage.

I snagged the cheapest ticket I could find. It was a deal because no one was traveling since the pandemic had roared up again, since the vaccine didn’t work on the most recent variant, since Biden died in office and we were left to the Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Green’s of the world. Since Nancy Pelosi had a stroke and Kamala Harris was murdered, allegedly. Like the January 6 event, thanks to Tucker Carlson, was simply a legitimate exercise of political expression. Allegedly.

I had taken what cash they would allow me from the bank on my way to the airport. The US dollar hopefully would be worth something, even with a fascist government, and cash was always better than a computerized bank account. My bank had a branch here. I checked that. I think the survival skills are part of my legacy burden.

Ah, there behind the mangoes! Tortuga Telelphonica.

“Ah Madam, you want to wipe your I phone. You want a nifty lower class edition. No problem. Step in, Madam. Step in.”

His smile was brighter than a search light. And he had been waiting for me.



CHAPTER; THREE WEEKS EARLIER

When I arrived in this tropical country three weeks ago, the thick air jostled my equilibrium, stripping proprioception. I grabbed for my bag at the luggage wagon, and avoided the stares of the slick cab drivers, ready to jump in, and circle four times before depositing me at the cottage on the water. I was so paranoid I was sure every one of them looked like they were checking me out ready to write notes or whisper information into their cell phones. Everyone had cell phones. And my new state as fugitive had me recalling every movie scenario on Netlix. Some of that has eased now.

I feigned confidence and strode to the bus idling in black fumes at the door of the terminal. My host had insisted by email it was a five minute ride and best to avoid the private cars.


The cottage was small and stank of mildew. I opened the sliding door to the beach. The sand was grey and piles of seaweed and brackish wood lounged near the water. The host had warned me to eschew low tide beach walks til I got the ‘rhythm of the place’. He quietly admitted that he had known locals to defecate at the sea, preferring the salt air to their home pits, usually strategically placed behind the kitchen fire. Smoke and cook fumes doing double duty, so to speak. For now, the beach was empty, the water calm.

I recognized the view I had seen on the Air B and B advertisement. As usual, it had been strategically engineered to miss the huddle of shacks with rusted equipment stranded in front of them, off to the right. It was close to the once cement path that led back up to the highway where the bus had let me off. Maybe the shacks were the place the host suggested was the hub of information, good for late night mango juice and coconut rum. And a television that had CNN.

I stripped the bed and pulled the sheets and cotton coverlet onto the sandy deck to catch the last of the hot sun. The breeze helped. There was no road noise. The cabin felt isolated from the world with the two palms behind it, their fronds sliding back and forth at the winds pleasure.

The ancient hammock, probably a relic from a South American trip years earlier, still bravely stretched its grin between the palms but any weight would challenge its brittle history.

I had found this cabin on VRBO, cross referenced to Air B and B and reserved it with my married name. I took it for two months and the guy gave me a deal, especially because I brought cash to pay for the last 6 weeks. He said I would love it, and there were lots of books in English I could read if I got bored with the local culture.

And he would have Juanita Sanctos, the woman charged with cleaning the cabin, prepare me some sandwiches and fruit and a bottle of wine for my dinner. She left me a list of local guides on top of the refrigerator with some sticky chocolates. And places to visit. But I did not plan to venture far.

Sunset was spilling off the water and the orange and red seared me in place as I finished the food, and sank into the sandy plastic chaise lounge. The light, a soft singe on my body parts, melted my corners, still and stuck. For an hour. Or maybe more. I counted off the time in low candle wicks and screw top bottles of cheap wine pocketed from the plane. And tried to get hold of my breath.

When the light was gone and just the soft reflection of string lights from the bar down the beach glittered from a distance, I went in to survey my new home.

The sheets were fresh at least. I flapped them in place, shoving at shadows. There was no ‘gentle’ in my body, how I moved. But I moved and that allowed me to arrive in the room.

My flight had been so random, so quick, reflexive. Maybe I would laugh at my foolishness some day. But, I remember reading all those early WW2 books where people saw the danger, felt the danger of the rise of Naziism, the drilling beat of their neighbors’ fanaticism. I remember how I cringed at book after book. Why didn’t they leave? Those Jews that ended up in the camps, dead in the Warsaw ghetto reading letters from their cousins in the Bronx, why had they been so unseeing and stubborn, stiff necked?

That’s why I left so precipitously. It was the right thing to do, I wasn’t going to be cornered, caught in a trap of my own making. I repeated that to myself as I flapped the sheet and drove away the spirits of cowardice and overreaction that I was battling,

In my bag were talismans. Silk dressing gown under denim jeans. Candle stick from that brocante in Paris. The Swiss army knife I had given my long dead husband when we were first married. A porcelain tea cup..

I sat with them that night, made friends with the occasional tinkling of a juke box down the way, the rhythm of the waves. The stars were kind, considering the jeopardy of my situation. But, maybe jeopardy was just my point of view.


CHAPTER

In the first couple of weeks I had fought for connectivity by texting a few friends. It was my attempt at balance. I needed to lean into something besides uncertainty, but no one answered. I really didn’t want my neighbors, especially that woman, Lu Ann, who told me in no uncertain terms that I was a target, to know where I was. And Myrna did not answer me. I sent emails and I texted. I didn’t have a street address for her in Idaho. And I couldn’t really be sure if she was even there.

I felt Myrna near me. We had become that close. And it was Myrna who sent me here.

“Find Bob. He’ll come up with something, “she had snorted. “He always did.”

The last time I saw her it felt like we both were exploded out of lives we knew. Bits and pieces. Bits and pieces. I still go round and round trying to make sense of timelines and loss. Poking at my phone was no help.

Juanaita Sanctos, ever vigilant and seeing my uncertainty,, reminded me that my phone could be traced. That’s when I headed over to Tortuga. He looked like his turtle namesake and was well practiced in disappearing information. At least that task is handled.

It’s not only Myrna’s shift into an ambiguous uncertainty that has left me unmoored. My circle back home has diminished in the last two years. Three healer types who eschewed the vaccine, ended up dying of Covid. My neighbors, before their houses burned, had been dealing with repeated audits and tax bills, any way the government could target their businesses. Their records had exposed lots of donations to ACT BLUE and progressive caucuses. And then the random, electrical fires. The fire chief claimed to know nothing about it. But did look knowingly in my eyes when I asked him if my home was on the same dangerous, malfunctioning, power grid.

Some neighbors had moved west to a “safe state” area in California but I figured I could always join them if being here didn’t work out. The only one I heard back from was Veronica. She was an artist and had befriended me in a coffee shop. I realized later that was because her former circle of friends were appalled by her husband’s suction to the Fascists. Even though he was a Jew. He had been born in Cuba, Dictators are clear. And if you pay them enough money on the oligarch network they can be handled. Democratically elected officials not so much.

Her husband, Leo, had been listening to OAN for a year straight and she had told me she was going to leave him. But, when he protested a little too strongly, I think she got scared. She wrote, “Glad you got away. Leo keeping me close by.”

So, I didn’t text anymore












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