Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Combustible- Chapter 1 - Summer

" have to do a thing before you find out the reason for it. Sometimes our actions are questions not answers." - John Le Carre, The Perfect Spy

Chapter One - Summer

Summer has no place to go. This 44 year old veteran of the South African Boycott in the 80s, the angry protestor speaking loudly against the Rwanda Genocide in the 90s, and the mainstay at every G8 Summit protest for the last 10 years, had recently joined what she felt would be her last cause. She of the granola, outdoorsy, green generation, is the picture of health but somehow she knows - this will be her last. It is with the desperation of the dying man that she joined the Occupy Movement that had spread from its beginnings on Wall Street in late 2010 to cities across the country. For the last 6 weeks she's lived in  a tent on a grassy field, a park, public lands, in front of the courthouse in Louisville Kentucky.

That is, until in a bizarre turn of logic, the city had determined that the right of assembly guaranteed in the US Constitution did not apply to the Occupy Movement. Because public lands are paid for by the public, any use of that land for private interest is inappropriate. Thus, creating the dichotomy that because public lands are for the public, no one in the public can use them - especially if the public has something to say.

This is why Summer is now sitting on a hempen throw rug, book in her lap, Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, in front of the small black stage in the main hall of 4th Street Live in Louiville. Amidst the litter of receipts, napkins, playbills, and bottles left over from the concert the night before; her dishevelled red hair, shoulder length and naturally curly, tied back with a tie-dyed cloth. Last night she was physically removed from the courthouse lawn by a swarm of Louisville Metro Police, in riot gear, who were none too pleased to be pulling the duty. There were no injuries to the Occupiers reported, but she had been tossed around. When the officer grabbed her by the back of her left arm, she felt her blood boil. The passion swelled within her and she thought she would explode. The more she resisted, the hotter she became. Her face flushed, sweat stained her blouse, her legs ached, she asked herself if she had the flu. She could feel her heart beat in her temples. And then she stopped resisting. The heat, the pressure, the thumping of her blood pressure, the grinding of her teeth overwhelmed her and she decided to let the officer take her away.

Somehow she ended up here, between the pub and the Hard Rock Cafe, seated on the pavement within a cove of restaurants that had not yet opened for the next day's business. She does not remember how she got here but she suspects the officer dropped her off here at her request. She vaguely remembers an impassioned plea for help and the officer's reluctant agreement to do what she asked. She still feels hot as though she has a fever. She is alone, has been her whole life. Her causes were her family. Now there was no one. She is unwashed, her face is smudged with dirt, and the heat will just not go away.

A maintenance worker is circling with his broom and his scoop, cleaning up the mess that is surrounding her. He pays her no mind. Restatuarant owners are now opening their doors  and straightening their dining patios for the next day's downtown lunch crowd. It is 7:00 AM Eastern time, 6th of August and
already hot and muggy. Louisville is waking up and with crust in it's eye begins its next business day.
Summer is burning up. She is caught in that space between knowing she has to do something, but not knowing what. She knows she can't sit still but also knows she can't move. The book keeps her busy - her fingers, her lap, not her mind. She can't concentrate and she reads the same line over and over again. A drop of sweat rolls from her brow, down her temple, onto her cheek to her chin and hangs there off her jaw. It hangs, then droops, it elongates as the force of gravity tugs on it. It lets go and falls to a page, smudging the print. Summer is so feverish she is unable to move to wipe the drop away. This first is followed by another. Her skin turns from pale to brown, to bright burning red. She looks as though she fell asleep on a beach and woke up baked well-done. She aches as a mounting pressure in her chest makes her feel as though she were being trampled. She is less dazed and more angry now. The injustice she and her fellow Occupiers were subjected to should not go unchecked. She tells herself to get up, to say something, to walk right back to the former Occupy Camp and stage a sit in. But she can not move. Her blood is boiling, her heart rate swiftens, she is soaked in her own sweat and then suddenly, Summer is no more. In an instant the maintenance man, the shop keepers, the restaurant owners, the policemen on patrol, the business men and women walking to their offices turn their heads, when they hear the report. A small Carolina Wren was seen to tumble to the pavement, flap about on its back, right itself amid the ashen remains, shake its head, as if it to clear it, and then launch straight up and fly away.

"Sounds like a bomb went off," one witness says, "and then a bright light just hanging there."

"Was there any smoke?"

"No. No smoke, just the loud bang and then the light and then that..." the witness points to the ground at his feet.

What was Summer was reduced to a small pile of ash surrounded by a pair of hands and a pair of feet, badly charred.

The crowd around the scene had grown. If it had not been Monday morning one would think 4th Street Live was filling up for a night's worth of frivolity. The officers on the scene heard the same story from every one claiming to be a witness. Loud bang, hanging white light, no smoke, and then ashes and hands and feet.

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