By Gonz Blinko
“Skip! Skip!” Yelled Governor Mordecai Huckleberry. “Skip, get in here!” Shouted the Arkansas politician from the sofa in his suite at the Concord Sheraton.
“Who’s Skip?” Asked a clean cut young campaign aid as he entered the room.
“You are,” responded the conservative politician.
“No, I’m Scooter. I don’t know any people called Skip,” he drawled with his Arkansan accent.
“Well, who ever you are, I need some rest, I need a real break before all of my hair falls out and I can’t take any more coffee without puking.”
“Governor, sir,” stammered Scooter, “the primary is less than two weeks away and the only breaks we can take are our little naps on the plane. The are listed on your daily itinerary.”
“Gosh dang it Scooter, I am the flipping candidate, I’m the governor and I say I need a day off.”
“But our polling numbers have a slight lead, we may actually win this thing.”
“And climbing over snow banks to shake a few hands in some donut shop in some miserable village in this cold and wet state will make no difference,” countered Huckleberry. “We are taking a day off.”
“I awoke to the gentle rocking of Samhara’s house boat anchored on the lee side of one of Florida’s 10,000 islands. “You slept like a rock Gonz,” she said as she handed me a triple shot espresso. “You missed a phone call earlier.”
“From who?” I asked my attorney and took the first sip of my coffee.
“Some outdoor sports guy. He says he likes your articles and that he wants to meet you.”
What’s his name?”
“Don’t know, he said he’d call back later.”
I popped a Chesterfield King into my mouth, lit it and took a long drag. As I exhaled, I asked, “what sort of outdoor sports?”
“He didn’t say much other than he would call back later.”
I returned to my morning stimulants of choice, slid on a pair of flip flops and walked to the porch to enjoy the serenity of a balmy December Everglades morning.
“Shit! Fucking shit! You’d think the fucker was the only guy in America willing to discuss religion running for the nomination,” shouted Rom Mitney, former Governor of Massachusetts, NFL commissioner and founder of Great Dane Consulting and Capital investment group. “Huckleberry is rising in the polls like a godamned bullet and nothing we do seems to have any effect. I can understand Iowa but fucking New Hampshire? Massachusetts candidates always do well up here. Even Paul Tsongas won the first primary in this snow covered fucking wasteland!” Continued the former governor of the state immediately to the south of where he stood.
Skip, his bright, young Harvard graduate senior aid took a step back and asked, “Like a bullet? Who talks like that anymore?”
“You fuckers are too young to remember America’s Top Forty, perhaps the greatest program in rock and roll history. My choice of simile notwithstanding, this morning’s numbers are the worst so far and we’re sinking faster than the Titanic. You have heard of the Titanic I will assume?”
Skip had dealt with exceptionally egotistical politicians since he volunteered on the Bush senior campaign while still in high school. As he thought that Rom simply needed a valium, he remained silent as the candidate continued to rant and rave about the daily tracking numbers.
The offices of Great Dane Consulting sat atop CopleyCenter in Boston. A very fashionable address with a great view of the city and a short elevator ride downstairs to some excellent restaurants and candy stores. Since the publication of “Confessions of a Corporate Killer” Great Dane had done its best to maintain a fairly low profile in spite of their very visible office space.
They continued to receive government contracts to perform the same kind of tasks destabilizing governments, whacking opposition candidates in so-called free and fair elections abroad and they have everyone from Hugo Chavez to the far right wing leaders of Malaysia and Indonesia on their payroll. Great Dane was, as a company, politically neutral, they donated the same very large sums to Democrats and Republicans in US elections and the cash flowing to them never ceased to grow from year to year.
The phone on Mike Epstein’s desk rang and disturbed his day dream about the hot new assistant. He answered on the second ring, “Epstein.”
“It’s Skip, responded the campaign functionary. “We’ve gotta talk.”
“About what asked the VP of International relations.”
“Can’t discuss on the phone,” answered a somewhat shaken Skip. “We need to talk in person today.”
“This line is completely secure, we use the same encryption that we designed for The Fort , no one has deciphered it yet.”
“The boss insists, no paper, no electronic communication, just face to face so get your tired old ass in a limo and get to Manchester as quickly as possible.”
The older VP sighed and asked, “What about a helicopter?”
“Too risky, it’s snowing up here and the winds are far too strong for a chopper.”
“I’ll see you in a couple of hours,” stated the older businessman.
“Skip,” shouted Huckleberry from his seat on their presidential campaign jet, “get Ed Phelps on the horn and tell him we’re on our way and we want to do some winter white tail hunting.”
“That’s Scooter, sir,” mumbled the aid who had been rejected by Harvard and only had the confidence of a Dartmouth frat boy which can easily be shaken in the company of the truly powerful. “Where’s his number?”
“I don’t know you flipping moron, I don’t dial my own calls you and the others handle that. Ask Gerry, the communications guy.”
“His name is Gordon,” stammered Skip.
“Whatever his name is, find him and get Phelps on the line and tell him we plan on hunting this afternoon.”
Just as I tied a clauser minnow onto the tippet of my eight weight G. Loomis GLX fly rod, the telephone on the house boat rang. I could hear a gruff and very southern accented voice ask Samhara, “Is Mr. Blinko up yet?” My attorney said, “hang on and I’ll check.”
“It’s the redneck outdoors guy again, are you awake?”
“I want to get to the snooking but I’ll talk to him to listen to what he may have to say. Maybe we can get a story out of this, BC went on silent mode for the month and I like to write every day.”
Sam quipped, “Jerking off is all you do every day but here’s the phone so you can talk to the guy.”
I hit the button to turn the phone off of mute and said, “Blinko.”
“I’m Wade DuPont from the Arkansas Disabled Outdoorsmen Association. I’m sure you’ve heard of us, we’re pretty big.”
“If I’ve heard of you, I’ve forgotten about it. What do you want?” I asked a bit irritated that I wasn’t casting into mangrove roots but, rather, talking on the phone to some redneck with an undue sense of self-importance.
“Our membership, especially the blind guys, really like your writing and we want to offer you a free trip up to Arkansas to do some winter hunting. We’re going for white tail and we should do pretty well on them.”
“I can’t guarantee that I’ll write about it,” I said looking for excuses to continue lazing in the Glades. “Also, I only hunt ducks and geese, it’s less likely that I’ll shoot another member of our group if I’m shooting into the sky.”
DuPont, sounding excited, said, “You’ve heard of technology haven’t you?”
“Uh, sure,” I replied a bit confused. as to what this nutcase was talking about.
“Well, a group over in Texas invented a scope like thing a blind person can attach to a rifle that identifies deer and, when you hear some kind of sound, you squeeze the trigger and you are all set up with fresh venison.”
“Yeah, I think I might have heard of that, it grew out of some military project, I think. How does it work? Infrared, laser, pattern recognition?”
“Uh… Yes… Well maybe no, shit I don’t know a fucking thing about the egghead stuff, actually. It works for the guy in Texas and we hoped that you could inaugurate the system we bought for our blind friends up here in Arkansas.”
“I’m in the Glades, there is no airport nearby.”
“Give us your GPS coordinates and we’ll get a Scarab to you, run it up to Miami and you’ll be all set.”
“Sure,” I added, “Why not? It might actually be fun. One more thing though, I have no cold weather clothing with me.”
“We’ll take care of that,” said DuPont, “I’ll meet you at the airport personally.”
“Phelps!” shouted the state’s governor. “You’re a sight for sore eyes. I’m a bit sick of all of the smiling, handshakes and acting like I actually care less about some schmo eating lemon pie in a roadside diner.”
“I’ve got the gear all packed and a set of Columbia hunting clothes in your size and we can get started as soon as you’re ready.”
“Let’s go now,” said Huckleberry.
“You do have your hunting license with you don’t you?”
“I’m the flipping governor, I don’t need no stinking license.”
The two hopped into Phelps truck and headed out for the woods.
“It’s like this,” said Skip to Epstein, “Every quantitative bit of data we have shows Huckleberry rising and Rude Boy and Rom are fading fast. We can lose Iowa but New Hampshire is a must win for us.”
“And?” Asked the Dane consultant.
“Rom believes, if provided with the appropriate data, you will figure out the appropriate solution.”
“Ok, dump the data.”
First, Huckleberry placed a call to his favorite hunting guide and will be in the Arkansas wilderness all day tomorrow. Second, we’ve got GPS transmitters all over Phelps so it should be easy to find them in the woods.”
“So, you’re suggesting a hunting trip? You think I need a nice outdoors vacation?” Epstein asked knowingly.
“Something like that,” replied Skip.
“Gonz Blinko, the blind journalist will also be hunting in the same area with some other disabled sportsmen using one of those infrared scopes that lock onto the heat signature of a deer. He’s meeting a guy named DuPont at the Little Rock airport who will bring him out to shoot some white tail.”
“Hmm…” added Epstein, “tell the boss it’s under control.”
“Skip got out of the limo and the driver got back in. “Driver, airport, charter hanger,” ordered Epstein.
I tried to think of a song to sing as I got off the puddle jumper in Little Rock but nothing about Arkansas stands out in my mind with enough distinction to remind me of any lyric. “Gonz Blinko,” yelled a heavily accented voice.
“Yup,” I replied.
“Fred Johnson at your service.”
“What happened to DuPont?” I asked as I had expected someone else to gather me at the airport.
“He got caught up in some business related to his day job. I’ll be taking you out today.”
“What did you say your name is?”
“Fred Johnson but my friends call me Ratface cause of my skinny nose.”
“Some friends,” I mumbled as I stepped up into the SUV.
“You can go in back and change clothes, Samhara told us your size so it should all fit.”
“Over the river and through the woods,” I sang as I dressed.
Phelps and Huckleberry got out of the pickup and walked into the woods. They started looking for signs of deer to follow. Phelps recognized something and told the governor to follow. Both men walked as quietly as possible.
“I love everything about this place,” whispered Huckleberry.
“Me too,” added Phelps as they wandered further into the forest.
“Here is your gun, tricked out for hunting deer without vision. As an added precaution, it also sends a video image to my iPAQ so I can double check that you are aiming at a proper target.” Said Johnson, “By the way, this quiet fellow with us is named Billy Bob, he’s pretty shy so don’t expect him to say much. He is also a deadly shot so, even if you miss, he’ll make sure you have venison to bring home.”
“What sort of rifle is this?” I asked as I’m more of a handgun kind of guy and couldn’t recognize it by feel.
“Thirty ought six, answered Johnson who then added in a comical voice, “Be very quiet, we’re hunting wabbits.”
Skip sat with his candidate in their Concord headquarters. “Any word from the field staff?” Asked Rom Mitney.
“Nothing yet but, according to the plan, they’ll just be getting started.”
Phelps asked the governor, “Can you hear that?”
“Sounds like something is happening about 150 yards off to our right. Let’s walk in as cautiously as we can.”
“Gonz, can you hear that?” Asked Johnson.
“Yeah, I think so, something off to our left.”
“Let’s kneel down and see what your sensors say.”
I lifted my rifle to my shoulder and slowly moved it around to try to locate the heat signature of a deer. Johnson watched his iPAQ intently and Billy Bob remained silent except for very short breaths.
Suddenly, I heard a constant beep from my earpiece. “You’re on her, squeeze the trigger and you’ll have a pile of delicious venison to bring home.”
I squeezed my trigger and heard two gun shots go off almost simultaneously. “Billy Bob got one too!” Said Johnson excitedly.
“What do we do now?” I asked as the thought of dragging a heavy and bloody carcass out of the woods started to sink in.
“Nothing,” said Johnson, “Billy Bob will call a couple of friends with ATV and they’ll haul the quarry back into town. Eddie the butcher will clean it all up for you, vacuum pack it, put it in ice and then FedEX it to any place you would like.”
“Isn’t that expensive,” I asked.
“It’s all part of the package we offer Gonz. It’s too late for you to fly back tonight so we also got you a room at the lodge. We’ll be eating rainbow trout tonight, a specialty of the house.”
The phone rang in the New Hampshire suite. “Skip,” answered the aid.
“Fresh venison tonight,” answered Epstein’s voice.
“How many?” Asked Skip.
“Perfect. I’ll see you in Boston tomorrow,” added Skip.
Three days after Governor Huckleberry left for his day off, Scooter paced back and forth the suite. “Did he go mental?” He asked no one in particular.
“heck, he said Jesus told him to run for president, maybe Jesus changed his mind,” added a no name junior aid.
The guys at the lodge prepared an amazing dinner, making me certain to want to come back. I enjoyed the hunting, the walk in the woods,, the clean, crisp air and the venison chile the lodge served as a side.
The following morning, one of the guys brought me a pot of coffee. One taste and I practically gagged, “fucking Maxwell House,” I muttered but continued to drink it for my fix.
I poured a second cup, lit a Chesterfield and turned on a local television news station. The lead story said that Arkansas Governor and presidential hopeful had gone AWOL for a couple of days. “Look for him in a gay bath house, that’s where those preacher types can usually be found,” I said to no one in particular.
The second story said that local outdoorsman Wade DuPont was found floating face down in some dirty old river with three bullet holes in the back of his head. “Probably some corrupt real estate guy wanting to get a conservationist out of the way,” I said aloud to the empty room.
This short story is highly influenced by three books that I’ve enjoyed over the years – thus, the peculiar title. These books, “The Manchurian Candidate” by Joseph Conrad and the excellent movie made from the book starring Frank Sinatra in a non-singing role, “The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood (one of this terrific writer’s more recent books and “The Dead Zone” by Stephen King.
Recently, I received an invitation to go deer hunting with a group of Florida sportsmen with disabilities. These are a great bunch of guys and, using the invention from Texas, I hope to bag a doe. Of course, I will not change the rifle’s firmware back to its military purpose of locking onto the heat signature of a human being.