Fool O’Clock – Part 1

“Oh shit, it’s Fool o’clock.”

“Wha’?”

The grumble next to me is the wife – likely the co-conspirator who turned the damned alarm off. It’s on her side of the bed, per her demand, after I broke my hand trying to break the last one.

“I said, ‘It’s Fool o’clock.’ I’m supposed to be in a meeting right now.”

“Stop whining, comb your air, and video conference with them, Gomer. They’ll think you’re too involved doing whatever you do for them to come in.” She turns over and jerks the covers off me like Monday morning was my idea.

For the record, my name is not Gomer. It’s Jim Pyle, but she thinks it hilarious to call me Gomer. Fortunately, she only calls me that when I’m pissing her off, or whenever we have company. She’s one lazy-ass, sarcastic woman, my wife. That’s why I love her; she’s my fucking soul mate. I’m thinking at some point I should tell her what I do for a living. Then again, why spoil a good thing? We’ve been together for six years, and in all that time, the subject of work has never come up. It’s not so much that I’m hiding things from her as it is that I don’t like to talk about work, and she doesn’t give two shits.

I work out of a federal government office in D.C. for an agency that most people would tell you don’t exist. So let’s go with that. My agency doesn’t exist. In fact, it hasn’t existed since the Nixon administration got sick of that Woodwind and Birnbaum duo who broke the Watergate story. It wasn’t the two reporters that got the Trickster all worked up; it was the stupid shits that set the whole thing up and then fumbled what should have been a simple cover up.

Want to know a secret about big government conspiracies? Most of them never happened. No, not in the way my job never happened, I mean they actually never took place. There was no second shooter on the grassy knoll; they didn’t need one, considering Oswald was a fucking trained sniper. Area 51 is just a test flight area attached to Andrews Air Force Base and the only aliens housed nearby snuck in from Mexico. Yes, there are secret messages in the dollar bill, but nobody remembers what the hell they mean. Whoever wrote the code damned sure didn’t let Barack Obama into their little club. Here’s a clue; if you can find it on the Internet, there’s no clandestine plot. Real secrets are damned hard to keep and take a lot of work. People talk too much, and there are more fuck ups in the Fed than a plenty. Not more than anywhere else mind you, it’s just that there are enough of them to go around. All you need is one bigmouth or ass-o-lantern to turn a beautiful plot into a steaming pile.

Ask Ollie North if you don’t believe me.

For the record, there is no such agency as the Bureau of Fool Abatement, we don’t call it BFA, and it definitely is not under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security. If there were such an agency, I am certain our Commander in Chief would know about it. I ain’t no lawyer, but I’m pretty sure there would be a law somewhere requiring it – especially since DHS works for the woman. Since Madam President does not know about it, we don’t exist – otherwise, the agency I don’t work at would be in defiance of the law. That’s damnright treasonal. Since I am clearly a patriot, I couldn’t be involved in such an enterprise. Ipso facto, there is no BFA.

Ain’t logic sweet?

I’m just screwing with you – of course we exist. We just keep our shit under wraps, if you get my drift. In fact, the current President is the first one to be told we even exist – unofficially, of course. We give the lovely Number 47 plausible deniability. That frees us up to do the nation’s dirty work. Plus, since our little piece of the budget is classified, we don’t have an official line item to trace. That lets us be completely invisible when we want to. Now, this being a media age, there is power in stealth, but there’s even more in making the right information available at the right time. It’s just that everything we do has to be off the record.

It’s like UFOs, for instance. Some clown in Podunk, Arkansas sees some flashing lights, right? And despite his 29 IQ and a piece-of-shit camera phone from 2014, he manages to get blurry, but plausible video. It ain’t enough to win a Pulitzer, but it is enough that our enemies wonder if Spacemen from Antares II are real, or if the good old US of A had some secret government military project brewing. The answer is, of course, hell yeah. (You didn’t hear that from me.) Meanwhile, the bad guys with money have to spend it all on military to keep up with us, and the ones who are broke know not to screw with us. Plus, the video is just crap enough that all the dickhead trolls on YouNews can claim their brother-in-law can Photoshop the same damn thing. Plausible deniability. Madame President is happy, as are her corporate sponsors.

Ain’t democracy grand? I fucking love this kind of work.

Likewise, we at BFA leak just enough chatter to keep the right people nervous. Still not sure why leaks are important? I mean, why not keep your secrets secret, right? Two reasons. First, contrary to what you see in the movies, it does nobody any good to have an operation no one knows about. If you are a group dedicated to the freedom of society, you want folks pissing in their pants at the thought of violating your mandate and having you come after them. They can only be afraid if they know you’re out there … somewhere. I call it the J. Edgar Hoover School of Management. A genius, that man.

Second, no matter how hard you try, classified material gets out there. Some broke son of a bitch sells something to a news agency, some James Bond wannabe gets his hands on good paper, or some dumbass takes something home she shouldn’t have and leaves it on the bus. However it happens, it happens. In those instances, it’s a good idea to leak a bit of information – on purpose – so that you can taint it and convince the media that such info is worthless. Then, when someone gets hold of real data, no one pays any attention.

Truth is, we don’t have the problem with leaks that other agencies have. You get on our list; you disappear. We are neat, professional, and courteous. We’ll also kill a motherfucker quick – faster than muthafucken snakes on a muthafucken plane. It keeps things simple. I have an old photo of Samuel L. Jackson on my desk just as a reminder.

The BFA started out small – just a few jobs here and there. In fact, most of our stuff was done overseas, and we let the CIA take the hits. But now we are a full-time operation, with about 1,500 agents worldwide. I’m the Assistant Deputy Director of the Mid-Atlantic sector, which means I have been riding a desk for about five years. So that’s my story – career bureaucrat, dedicated to the belief that there are really good people who are responsible for holding together the Union: the ordinary, hard-working Americans who keep our great nation heading in the right direction.

Then, of course, there are the fools. My job is to find them and … fix them.

Did I mention that I love my fucking job?

Anyway, it’s Monday and by ten thirty, my telecon is over, and I’m at the Grosvenor Metro Station in Bethesda, Maryland, waiting for the train into town. The wife was hard at work already – someplace, doing stuff. Like I said, we don’t talk about work. Mostly, we talk about TV, where to eat, stuff like that … and sex. We have a great relationship.

The metro should have thinned out by now, but there was a problem on the track – probably a leaf derailed a train car or something. As a result, the trains are delayed. I’m standing on a crowded platform, itching to get my day started. There are wall-to-wall people, but this one guy is pacing back and forth. I try to catch his eye and glare him into stopping, but he just frowns and turns away. The guy was your normal chubby suburbanite, wearing a cheap gray suit with a silver tie that makes his hair look grayer than it is. He’s actually pushing his way through the crowd, yelling into a cell phone. I look around, and by my count, he’s pissed off around twenty people in the span of about two minutes. I catch the Metro cop’s eye, give him the high sign, and he makes like a tree.

Looks like I have to go to work early. I really hate suburban work.

By now, the subject has pushed his way to the northbound side of the platform. He’s screaming. “So, I have to come all the fuck way back home and give you a ride, because you missed your fucking bus?” He listens and yells some more. “How is that my damned problem? I didn’t ask your car to break down. I swear to God, I’m going to smack the shit out of you when I get there.” He started walking again, this time pushing his way through the murmuring crowd, headed toward nowhere I can discern.

I walk over and cut him off. “Excuse me sir,” I say, “you want to stop pushing people around like that?” Like I said, we’re polite. You always give a fool a chance to redeem himself. That’s Rule One.

He looks up at me, glares, and puts his hand over the phone. “Do you mind? I’m talking to my wife.”

Check One.

Behind him, the red lights at the edge of the platform flash, and the northbound train heads into the station. I look around, see that everyone is watching the train or looking in the other direction. The fool on the phone begins shoving his way toward the train. Maybe ninety percent are waiting for the southbound. Most folks have their back to him once he reaches the platform’s edge … so, I give him a shove of my own. He goes barreling over the side of the platform, smack into the oncoming train. I see the driver jerk back as the train creams him and then thumps the hell over his body, probably crushing it into mush. Snakes on a plane. Poof.

Meanwhile, he flung his cellphone up in the air as he went over the side; I managed to catch it. I held it to my ear, and there’s this sweet woman’s voice on the other end. She’s crying and saying, “Hello? Are you there? You don’t have to come – really. I – I can get a ride with the neighbors.” The woman is so scared she doesn’t even notice her wife-beating-son-of-a-bitch fool of a husband just got handled. Just then, the southbound squeals to a stop.

It’s right on time: Fool o’clock.

 

* Story originally published in The Juice and Other Stories, available from Amazon.com and other book retailers.

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