Romare Bearden, "Return of the Prodigal Son" (1967)
Romare Bearden, Return of the Prodigal Son (1967)
Can a Game Be Literature?

Mark's Pages

July 28, 2003:

To lead the independent commission of inquiry, one of the nation's most notorious liars was brought out of retirement.

Serial Henry admired Metternich, the 19th-century Austrian diplomat renowned in his day for the most pathological duplicity the world had yet known. As Secretary of State he misled Congress concerning our government's secret war in Cambodia, in which he personally orchestrated a terror-bombing campaign that killed tens of thousands, ushering in the victory of the heinous Pol Pot regime. He helped engineer and later deny responsibility for the murderous Chilean coup which overthrew democracy in that country, killing sixty thousand. The extent of his involvement in the Watergate burglaries was never satisfactorily explained. Rumor was rife among the cognoscenti that the secretive Vice President had personally selected him to head the commission.

"Vot do you vant?," inquired Henry of the terrorists, one sunny afternoon at New Camp X-Ray. "Medical ben-e-feets? Ein vour-oh-von-kay?" Smiling he added, "Higher vages?"

Mary Ann was distracted by the man's appearance. She was certain she knew him from somewhere. Of course! Her favorite movie, from before their shipwreck: Dr. Strangelove. Here he was, in the flesh, asking questions about their strike.

They were unsure how to answer. Truth was, they hadn't considered it.

"No," replied Gilligan, thoughtfully. "We don't want any wages at all."

Henry raised an inquisitive eyebrow.

Mary Ann nodded. Hesitantly she added, "We want people to behave responsibly."

Henry smiled. "I zee. Und vat does dis 'responsibly' mean, eh?," he asked.

They thought that over, looking to each other for support.

"Well," replied Gilligan. "We want the cave shelter completed before any other projects."

Henry scribbled into a small leather-bound notebook. "I zee," he said.

Mary Ann nodded. "We want our food and water supplies protected," she added.

Henry nodded, scribbling. "Go on," he said.

Gilligan agreed. "We want the public good to come first," he said.

Henry raised one eyebrow, scribbling.

Mary Ann hesitated, then spoke out boldly. "We want the island to be owned by no-one, and shared by all, for the benefit of all," she concluded. Gilligan nodded in support. "The way it was before the end of the world," he said.

Henry finished scribbling, shutting his notebook with a slap and a satisfied smile. He'd collected all the information he required. His report to the President was simple and unequivocal.

"Mister Prezident, dese terrorists are, of courze, un-re-con-ztructed Communists," and here he paused in mid-sentence to nod, smiling, "of dee old zgool. Dey belief in bureaucracy, Mister Prezident. Dey belief in red tape. Dey disrespect prifate property, und order." He shifted excitedly in his chair. "Dey are subverzives, Mister Prezident. Dey are, quite probaply, ein zleeper zell, left ober vrom dee Colt Var, mit zecret orders, rezeived from Moscow, quite probaply by short wave, und zome kind of code, perhaps az long ago ass dee zixties."

The President and his advisers were aghast. The President looked grim. "Not on my watch," he said with resolve.

Turd Blossom smiled. Just what the doctor ordered.

Serial Henry smiled. Mary Ann and Gilligan were the same kind of people he'd eliminated by the tens of thousands during his time in power. These were just two more.