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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

The American
by Jim Bergstad

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JOURNAL ENTRY 4/23/1995

My headlights cut a hole in the pitch-blackness surrounding the windshield, not quite illuminating the surface of the two-lane road I traveled. I tried, in vain, to sing along with Patsy Cline as she went out "Walkiní After Midnight," but my voice was scratchy and Iíve never been able to carry a tune.

This back-country road, south through Georgia, seemed safe enough when I checked the Rand McNally. Of course my foolish actions, fostered by my arrogance, forced a hurried decision. And hurried decisions lead to fatal mistakes, Iíve seen it happen more than once.

My neck was sore from constantly checking the dark road behind me. Iíd been driving for a little over two hours. Soon I would cross the border into Florida.

I cursed aloud. I realized God probably didnít inspire my deviation from the Nine Year Plan. My rash behavior was born of fatigue, idiotic conceit, nothing more.

April 18, 1995, I arrived in Carsonís Ferry, Georgia. I found a small motel and rented a room, paying in advance for a week.

I was physically and mentally drained, having driven straight through from Oklahoma. Iíd stopped only for gas, now and then a quick bite to eat. Sleep was my first priority; I wanted to enjoy that luxury for at least a week, but instead, I would be up early April 19th.

I still experience pleasure and satisfaction remembering that early spring morning. I had no fear. No second thoughts. Iíd planned the entire operation, down to the smallest of details; Iíd chosen my people with care, and lastly, placed the plastique myself. If any one part of the plan failed, the building would still come down. Not in as spectacular a manner, but it would come down.

That morning, on a television bolted to the wall, I watched the results of the single most successful act of retribution ever visited on The United States of America, a nation of degenerates and infidels. In Oklahoma City the A. P. Murrah Federal Building was a smoking ruin and they were still counting the dead --- I fell back on the bed and into another 11 hours of dreamless sleep.

Thursday, April 20th, I went out shopping for road supplies and to have the car serviced. Iíd seen a 10 Minute Oil Change garage on my arrival Tuesday, I was sure I could find it without assistance.

I was a little cocky, I suppose, but the thrill of my triumph coursed through my veins. I wanted to scream at the world: "Look, infidel; tremble in fear, infidel. See what I, Jamal ibn al Din, accomplished for the Great and Good Allah, God of all who follow the Law of Islam." But of course I couldnít proclaim my victory for the jihad.

I stopped daydreaming and realized I might be in the wrong area --- That quickly I was lost. Somehow Iíd missed a turn or gone too far. I pulled into the parking lot of a small industrial complex and checked my map of the City. Last night Iíd circled the location of the garage; the corner of Willow Glen Road and Ida Street. I looked around for street signs and discovered I was on the corner of Ida Street and Peach Grove Way. Somehow Iíd driven right past my destination, traveling five blocks further north; I laughed with nervous relief.

As I prepared to back out of the parking space, a structure across the street caught my eye. It was a long, flat roofed, clapboard building; it seemed alive with color and activity. Multi-colored slats were pushed through the chain links of a five-foot fence surrounding the front yard.

A sun porch with jalousie windows and a large wrought iron screen door enclosed the entrance of the building.

On the roof, attached to the front edge, multi-colored letters, three feet high, spelled out "Mommyís Helper Day-Care and Pre-School." A large ribbon of heavy paper stretched beneath the roofline. In childish lettering the banner read: "Mother and Child Tea - Saturday, April 22nd - 2 until 4 - Come One - Come All."

I was dumbstruck for a few moments. As I watched, the playground swarmed with at least 50 children, running, laughing and screaming as children do at play. At that moment there was no doubt in my mind. I firmly believed the Hand of Allah guided me to that parking lot --- That specific intersection --- His miracle took my breath away.

Everything was so clear, even as I gasped for air. At the motel, in the lining of my valise, were several thin sheets of the plastique I used in Oklahoma City. I should never have carried the explosive this far and until this moment Iíd considered myself a fool. Why had I hesitated in disposing of this incriminating evidence? --- Now the answer was clear. Again my training and study over the years could be utilized.

Again the Great God, Allah, sought my skills in disguise, passive entry and explosives. I knew Allah watched and directed me here --- I am Invincible! Blessed and sanctified by the Will of God.

That was my state of mind at the time. Within five minutes of seeing "Mommyís Helper" with its playing children and paper banner my decision for jihad was made. God is Good. God is Great. All Praise be to Allah.

The remainder of Thursday afternoon, I could think of nothing else. The running, laughing children; screaming their delight at play, cluttered my mind --- The fire was ignited in my blood.

In my mindís eye I saw them running, jumping, playing their games. My imagination placed a small lump of plastique on each childís head. I pictured the shiny black tips of the detonators moving to and fro as the children skipped, jumped and chased each other. I envisioned the mothers standing about, sipping tea, eating cookies, chatting and laughing with the teachers, or counselors, or whatever they call themselves. That night I tossed and turned, shuddered and sweated; several times I jumped up to pace, snapping my fingers, trying to catch my breath.

Friday, the morning of the 21st, I found a small department store and purchased a sport coat, conservative tie, tan slacks and a pale blue dress shirt.

Back at the motel I showered, washing and using conditioner three times on my thick, slightly curly hair.

I toweled it dry and gave it a vigorous brushing. My hair ended up fairly straight; I had a windblown effect. I trimmed the theatrical moustache Iíd used in Oklahoma City, then added glasses. Dressed in my conservative business clothes I looked exactly like the manufacturer's representative I intended to portray.

I needed intelligence about the community in general. "Mommyís Helper" in particular. Real Estate Agents are an excellent source of information.

American Real Estate is a fascinating occupation; I studied to become licensed at one time, but needed the steady paycheck that commissions canít guarantee.

Real Estate Agents specializing in residential properties can be especially helpful. These people possess all manner of knowledge about the community they serve: Schools, Government, Tax Structures, shopping, Police and Fire Services, Day-Care and Pre-Schools.

They have the inside track on neighborhoods, homebuilders and can explain the benefits of location and services.

I would play the part of a sales representative, a young widower and family man with four-year-old twins.

I would be especially interested in good Day-Care and Pre-School programs, as well as a quiet neighborhood, close to shopping and a friendly church.

In the classified section of the local paper, I found two Real Estate Companies dominating the Homes For Sale market. These two brokers should have the greatest number of associates and therefore create a healthy competition for their clients. In this type of atmosphere only the knowledgeable survived.

At 11:45 I entered Honeycutt Homes Realty, a narrow but deep storefront facing Peach Grove Way a mile west of "Mommyís Helper Day-Care and Pre-School." The office was located between an Antique/Gift Shop and a Walgreenís Drug Store, an ideal location for foot traffic, but offering little in the way of parking.

Desks lined the walls to my left and right; a wide center aisle ran at least one hundred feet toward the rear of the office where it ended in a closed door.

To the left of the entrance was the reception desk. It was unoccupied, a telephone headset lay on a heavily marked desk calendar.

Several agents appeared busy at their desks, two on the phone, several others leafing through books and papers.

I was about to clear my throat in an effort to gain attention when a large woman near the back of the office waved her arm.

"Hi, hi."

Her greeting sounded like HAA, HAA.

"Ah wonít be but a minute? Iíll just straighten up a bit?"

She gave me a big, toothy smile and began to clean off the chair next to her desk. She appeared to be in her forties and like her big smile everything else about her was big; very tall, very round. She finished her housekeeping and almost loped up the aisle. She waved her hands weakly as she approached, as if parting the air to allow her passage. The smell of her cologne, a heavy flower odor mixed with musk, preceded her.

She was dressed expensively; it seemed to me, wearing an excessive amount of jewelry.

She wore gold chains with a pearl and diamond pendant at her throat and a gold broach with small stones. Rings adorned each finger of her hands; some with stones, some sculptured silver, some gold bands. She offered her hand as she approached --- Her grip was damp, but firm.

I cannot get used to the casual freedom women enjoy in America. This cavalier attitude is hardest for me to accept, even after more than twenty years of blending myself into this degenerate society.

"Hi. Iím so happy to meet you. My name is Rhonda Bowdyne? Are yaíll lookiní for a home?"

I nodded.

"James Rivera."

"Well, yaíll just come on back here with me."

She began by questioning me about my background. I dutifully reported the scenario Iíd invented. By 4:00 PM Rhonda had shown me four homes and two small farms.

"I canít tell you how lucky you are, Mr. Rivera, to have chosen Honeycutt Homes. Our founder? Irene Honeycutt? She owns Mommyís Helper Pre-School and Day-Care. Yes, she sure does. Itís the finest facility in Colquitt County --- Yes, it really is."

"Iím going to take you right over there and introduce you to Emma and Idell Walker? Theyíre twin sisters? Isnít that somethiní, though? Twin sisters for your little twin sweetie-pies. Theyíll be so happy to show you around and answer your questions --- Yes siree --- You just trust little Rhonda. What do I do best? Why, take good care of my handsome clients, thatís what."

It was almost 5:30 by the time I was able to rid myself of Rhonda Bowdyne. Iíd learned a great deal during my tour of "Mommyís Helper." Emma and Idell eagerly answered my every question; the sisters were very amusing.

The lock on the screen door of the sun porch was a cheap, simple push button. The inner door was protected by a similar button lock and above it an equally inexpensive single tongue bolt. Gaining entry would be simple; the difficulty would be in making the lock pick, (I never travel with incriminating tools), then shaping and placing the charges.

On the way back to the motel, I located a hardware store and purchased tape, several flat, rattail files and a package of hacksaw blades. Several hours later I was ready for an early morning visit to "Mommyís Helper Pre-School and Day-Care."

Saturday, 2:30 PM April 22nd. I parked the car on Ida Street and walked a block to Peach Grove Way. I stood on the corner, looking lost, and consulted a map of Carsonís Ferry.

I was hard for me to remain calm as I waited these last few minutes --- Anticipation charged my system with adrenalin, I was jumpy, sweat poured freely from the pores of my skin.

In an effort to remain calm, I forced myself to review the plan I now felt Iíd put together too quickly. Iíd shaped and placed the explosive to assure the maximum splintering of wood and pulverizing of plaster, I wanted to create as much natural shrapnel as possible. Concussive force was extremely valuable, the facilityís propane system was a handy aid for that part of the plan --- My brain sizzled, my imagination ran wild.

At 2:38 PM the fire that consumed and bubbled my blood was extinguished by the blast and screams of those attending the "Mommyís Helper Tea."

Strangely the voices of the children were loudest. The littlest ones, just learning to run and jump, they screamed their horror, seeing the bloody stumps of their legs and arms.

One boy was all but torn in half --- Oh, how he screamed. Allah be Praised. God is Good. God is Great.

The mothers and teachers screamed very little. Those I could see seemed trance-like, as they lay like slaughtered sheep; to bleed away their infidel lives. The screams, moans and cries, did not last long at all --- I was very surprised --- Allahís death came to them and took them all; casting them into the painful depths where infidels go to suffer their dissoluteness. Suddenly, I was viciously aroused and I looked about me, shamed and embarrassed in the presence of Allah --- I held the map in front of me.

Everyone watched the chaos, I wanted very much to laugh out loud --- Rejoice. Then I became terrified as I thought my genitals might burst while my mind replayed the spectacle of the children, their body parts flying through the air. I turned away from the carnage Iíd created. I tried to focus on my reward to come. I was dedicated to my death in the service of the Great God --- Allah.

Fire and police vehicles blocked anything worth seeing. Even a freelance news cameraman couldnít get a decent picture. Then people began to jostle me in their attempts to see a little blood and gore.

One of my fellow Americans pointed toward a fireman losing his lunch in the gutter and laughed. As our Clerics teach, the moral decay of American culture make its defeat a simplistic exercise --- I knew it was time to move on.

The crowd formed quickly, and I wasnít surprised. The sights and sounds would be something to tell the rest of the family tonight around the dinner table. They could describe the cries --- The moans of terror. Some would whisper, with fear on their face, wondering if this was a conspiracy, part of Oklahoma City, even though McVeigh and the weakling, Nichols, had been captured.

Others would tell of their experience with a little smile, pleased theyíd caught a glimpse of reality, never connecting the dots.

People get caught up in their own self-importance. They become haughty, knowing their family and friends only saw the carnage on the evening news. People will bemoan the terrible deed for hours. But the next day there will be speculation on the new baseball season, fans checking out the Atlanta Braves and their opponents. We Americans have short memories; at least that has always been my experience.

Sunday or Monday some "Important Spokesman" for the NRA will no doubt advocate armed guards for day-care centers, schools and all places where the public gathers. Impassioned demands will be made for Marshals, authorized to shoot first and ask questions later. Political battles will rage in the Congress and on radio and television. Right Wing Ideologues will call for the blood of all foreigners and Hollywood celebrities will preach the sermon of calm, peace, forgiveness and understanding. The appeasers of The Left and aggressors of The Right will continue to soften the foundation of the weakening giant, making it pliable and ready for the fingers of Allah.

As Soldiers of Islam, we revel in the dissention created, for it legitimizes our actions and makes the smoldering triumph of Oklahoma City a clear-cut victory. But what, I wondered, would be said about "Mommyís Helper," and Carsonís Ferry, Georgia?

Back in my room reality replaced excitement; I would be a fool to think my superiors would not know of the risk I assumed. Once back home Iíd be called to task. Theyíll ask that I explain my actions, I thought, and my actions were as inexplicable as they could be.

Iíve jeopardized the Nine-Year Plan for the sake of my ego --- My temporary feelings of invincibility. My punishment will be swift, sure and severe.

I was quite nervous as I packed for the trip south. When the first reports of the Carsonís Ferry investigation came in I was stunned. A faulty propane tank was being blamed for the explosion at "Mommyís Helper Day-Care and Pre-School?" Allahís grace is truly wonderful to behold.

Reporters with stern faces gravely recounted the recent Fire Prevention Survey conducted by the Carsonís Ferry Fire Department. Their safety check resulted in a warning and order for repair of a faulty pressure relief valve. This was a strange stroke of luck, if it held. But these reports would not fool my superiors. I was following a preplanned withdrawal route from Oklahoma City. An explosion of the magnitude reported, with a body count over a hundred, and my presence in the vicinity? --- All these factors would be viewed with a jaundiced eye. In the service of Allah, consequences of rash behavior are always swift and sure.

My headlights illuminated a billboard: "You are leaving the State of Georgia. Hope you enjoyed your stay. Yaíll come back, yaí hear?"

Three heartbeats later another billboard appeared: "Welcome to Florida, The Sunshine State. Speed and Seat Belt Laws strictly enforced. Have a nice day and enjoy your stay." I giggled nervously and expelled a large puff of air, as if Iíd been holding my breath. I think, in fact, that was the case.

I was running and anticipation of discovery was a cold fist that knotted my stomach. But the greatest danger, I reasoned, might be in making it home safely. Again, I checked my mirrors seeing only darkness around me. Then something caught the corner of my eye and I turned back over my right shoulder, but it was gone, swallowed by the night. I paid for that maneuver with a searing jolt of pain in the muscles of my neck.


JOURNAL ENTRY 4/30/1995

As a boy of nine I was chosen. My parents were very proud as The Holy Ones took me from my fatherís sheep farm in the Golan, to be trained on the burning deserts of Syria, then Lebanon. I was one of twenty picked to serve Allah; the most important requirement would be loyalty, given without question.

My comrades and I were selected for our innate intelligence, light skin color, outgoing personality and ability to mimic. For three and a half years, we were schooled in the ways and means of Guerilla Warfare including heavy caliber and small arms, explosives, stealth and the art of using terror. We were instructed in the ways of our enemy, America, and its culture. Tutored continuously in English, Spanish and Portuguese as well. All traces of our Arabic heritage were purged from our minds; washed away in a flood of Westernization.

Our Leader and The Holy Ones trained us well. My Group consisted of twenty boys like me. When the Group Commander considered our training completed we were slipped into the United States --- easily.

In a roundabout way, I, Jamal ibn al Din, came to America courtesy of the United States Coast Guard. My first stop on leaving my homeland was Cuba. With an abundance of American dollars available, our people managed to move us through the country quickly. Although aided by Castroís Secret Service personnel our group did not "officially" exist and it was understood that embarrassment for the Castro Government could not be tolerated.

In a matter of hours I was smuggled aboard a small fishing boat. Somehow, at sea, in a pitch-blackness I have never experienced, a rendezvous was made with a boatload of Cuban refugees. The little boat bobbed helplessly in the Atlantic, 20 miles off the Florida coast. How our Captain found it seemed to be a miracle --- I was thirteen years old at the time and my new name was Pedro Moreno.

A crumpled birth certificate and baptismal record from a Catholic Church, located in a small sugar cane town south of Havana, were shoved in the pockets of my tattered clothes. When American authorities questioned me, I told them my father and mother were accused of treason and executed by Castroís Militia. Being the male issue of traitors, if found by Castroís soldiers, I too would be executed. Surely the American government could save me from certain death in Castroís Cuba --- I was granted asylum almost immediately.

Throughout my teenage years foster parents provided a home and the United States Government paid for most of my expenses. For twenty years Iíve lived in the Lakeland area of Florida, quietly and methodically weaving myself into the fabric of the urban American lifestyle.

On a hot spring day, almost a year ago, I was at work. We are taught to blend in, to seek employment where we may be exposed to the greatest variety of American culture; Iím a food clerk for Publixís Super Store in Lakeland.

That day I was performing my duties as usual and I paid little attention when a tall thin man appeared at my checkout. Iíd only scanned two items when I heard my Islamic name muttered softly, I looked up from the bag of oranges on the scale. At first all I saw were his fierce black eyes, eyes filled with a brutal resolve Iíd never seen before or since.

The manís head was shaved clean; his lean face was covered with a black beard, meticulously trimmed. He wore a tan linen suit, nicely tailored and almost wrinkle free. His white shirt was dazzling, crisp, and buttoned to the neck. I was transfixed by the manís eyes, but only for a moment, and then I quickly made sure no customers were approaching my checkout. The manís timing was perfect; we were alone at least for a few seconds.

I totaled his purchase, and as the money changed hands, he spoke the word IĎd waited twenty years to hear, Muwahhidun --- Servants of Islam as proclaimed by the Quran and Hadith.

The True Believers, The Makers of The State of Islam. Enforcers of the Law of Allah --- My time had arrived.

I was shaking. I scrawled my cell phone number, and the time my shift was over, on the Imamís receipt. The Holy Leader nodded as I dropped it in his bag.

Finally my shift ended, it had seemed the day would go on forever. In the parking lot I slipped behind the wheel of my battered, ten-year-old Honda Accord just as my cell phone rang.

I was directed to a Catholic Church, the same church my foster parents and I attended in my youth. For those who knew me in the community it was my church, a perfect nondescript choice for a meeting.

I chose a pew at the rear and knelt as if in prayer. Several minutes passed before a man entered the pew and knelt beside me. The man looked familiar, tall and thin with the same black beard, but the linen suit and white shirt were gone. Instead he wore a Florida State tank top and stonewashed Leviís. He now had black hair, cut in a flattop style and the same fierce black eyes pierced me, now however, they made their impression through a pair of round, gold-framed glasses. Small, round, golden earrings completed a college student look.

After a few whispered words in Spanish, he gave me an envelope then crossed himself and left the pew, genuflecting like any good Catholic --- I would never see this charismatic man again.

I could hardly contain myself. I returned home as quickly as possible, leaving the car in the driveway and rushing into the house. I took the time to lock the door and then ripped the envelope apart.

Five sheets of paper spilled to the floor. When I gathered them up the single-spaced type blurred before my eyes. I finally got myself under control and read through the document slowly. It was a blueprint, outlining my life for the next nine years.

The pages listed dates, targets and alternate targets. Locations of supplies and addresses of houses already purchased and available for my use. No preparation was overlooked, each operation was defined for each target city, even the route of departure was assigned. My first objective would be Oklahoma City. All went well, until Carsonís Ferry of course.


JOURNAL ENTRY 3/11/2004

I thought I would never again write in this journal, but here I am, and it feels good to have the time. Iíve wanted to record my contributions, not for my own glory, but for the sake of my family. Most important, for the later years, when my work can be proclaimed in the houses and the Mosques --- All for the glory of Allahís Destiny. God is Good. God is Great. Allah is The One True God.

I remember most of my accomplishments over the last nine years. For many it would seem I have accomplished little. It is true I have not been entrusted with other high profile projects similar to Oklahoma City. My behavior in Carsonís Ferry, while never detected by American authorities as a bombing attack, has yet to be forgiven. I hold no feeling of animosity for the attitude of my superiors. I understand now --- I understood then.

I foolishly jeopardized all of our projects, including this, our final action of the original Nine-Year Plan.

Now that time is over, Iím in place and have had the time to reflect, but the crate arrives on Monday, the 15th and then Iíll have just two days to prepare.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004, the President of The United States speaks before the United Nations --- While he spouts his platitudes, I will complete my mission as instructed.

But now I will write what I remember of the past nine years. I will try to be as accurate as possible for the sake of my family, but more importantly, for those who will follow me. My triumphs and failures can be a great and useful teaching tool. (Iíll offer this thought to my superiors.) I pray our Great God Allah will smile upon my re-dedication and the discipline I have adapted. I pray He will forgive the blatant, sinful, egotism I practiced that horrible day in Carsonís Ferry.

My long, troubled drive from Carsonís Ferry, Georgia ended in Lakeland early Sunday morning, April 23, 1995. It took an hour to dispose of the car as Iíd been taught. At home I stripped, collapsed on the bed and fell, at once, into a deep, dreamless sleep.

The ringing of the telephone was incessant. In my dream I reached for the phone, but my fingers refused to grasp the receiver. The ringing seemed non-stop and I knew I must answer; I fought my way back to consciousness.

"Hello? --- hello ---"

I glanced at the bedside clock, it was 11:30 and bright sunlight slashed through the window like so many sword blades --- I realized Iíd forgotten to close the blind. Had I only slept an hour? What demon could be ringing my telephone? Why was I being tormented? --- I was so tired.

"Good morning. Paul? Itís Louis. Are you awake?"

"Louis? Louis. Oh. Louis. Yes, of course. Iím sorry. Iíve just returned from a tiring business trip, Iíve only been asleep for an hour."

"Iím afraid youíre confused, my friend. Itís Monday morning, youíve slept twenty-four hours. You need to wake, my friend. Sleeping that long is bad for your physical being."

I took my watch from the bedside table. The little box showed MON - 24. I sat up, stretched; I almost yawned into the phone.

"You must be calling about the important business matter we discussed before I left --- Is that correct?" I donít know how I was speaking so clearly, my mouth felt like it was full of sheepís wool.

"Ah, your mind is working well again, Paul. Good. Yes. We must talk immediately."

"Ted and Carl will join us also, they are interesting young men, Iíll introduce you. Can you meet us for lunch at Quartoís? Say about 12:30? I have reserved a private room --- We will not be disturbed."

I said yes, of course, and hung up. After a quick shower I felt like a human being again. Over the last twenty years Iíve often thought American showers are surely an evil form of sin. I have discussed this briefly with Louis and he agrees. During this mortal journey, no Soldier of Allah should feel so gloriously fresh and revitalized.

Quartoís is a Cuban / Mexican Restaurant that has been Americanized then franchised. The food is plastic, but they have private rooms for business meetings and quick impersonal service.

I was fifteen minutes late when shown to the room. Louis glanced at his watch. He gave me a hard look as I sat down, but said nothing as the hostess took our drink orders. She looked at us a little strangely when we all ordered Perrier, each of us asking for a different fruit slice, lemon, lime and orange for me. Louis looked at us disdainfully and ordered coffee. She left, closing the door and leaving me to my fate.

Weíd met in these rooms before; they were confining, but excellent for private discussion. The table seats eight; the walls are draped with imitation serapes and bullfighting posters.

Louis introduced me to Ted and Carl explaining they were in the States on student visas. They looked like students; both dressed in blue, oxford like, short-sleeved shirts, tan Dockers and running shoes. Louis was impeccable, as always, he wore light summer slacks, a pale yellow dress shirt, open at the collar and tasseled loafers, sans socks. I felt a little out of place in my Buccaneerís jersey, Leviís and Nikes. We made small talk until the waitress returned with our drinks and luncheon plates.

"Youíre wondering why I have introduced you to Ted and Carl; am I right in that assumption, Paul?"

Stern-faced, Louis waited for my reply.

"You are my superior, sir. I wouldnít question your motives. Iím sure youíll explain the presence of these gentlemen --- If such explanation is necessary."

Louis nodded.

"There, gentlemen. You see why I have chosen Paul as your liaison."

"He will follow my instructions to the letter. All direction from him is to be considered an order from me. Is there complete understanding, gentlemen?"

I watched both young men. They sat straight, faces tight. They nodded almost in unison.

"Very well. Please eat some of this slop, then go quickly, Paul and I have much to discuss."

My stomach dropped to the top of my Nikes. It was like stepping into an express elevator as it passes your floor. Carl and Ted forked food into their mouths until Louis cleared his throat and nodded. Ted and Carl quickly wiped their chins and stood.

"Paul will be in touch on a regular basis, you will report on your progress --- Do not fail us in this regard. Now go about your lives as youíve been trained. No deviations --- For any reason. God is Good. God is Great. Go now, brothers."

Ted and Carl left without a backward glance. Louis pushed his chair away from the table and leaned back, folding his hands on his stomach --- He stared at me.

I was reasonably sure Louis would not murder me in a public place.

But his bright hazel eyes, while alive, gave no warmth; no hint of the mood hiding in their liquid depths.

Louis is not a tall man; he is 5í6", two inches shorter than my 5í8". He has light olive skin, a mild contrast to a head full of curly, black hair. I would describe his face as kindly, it is round and appears soft, but the softness is offset by heavy facial hair. He once told me he shaves three to four times a day; consequently, he usually wears a beard, or at least a mustache.

"So. Paul. Tell me why you felt you had to eliminate a day-care center in --- Where was it? Carsonís Ferry, Georgia? Please help me understand."

I pulled my chair closer and leaned forward. I wanted to explain how foolish Iíd been, that I recognized my mistake --- That I would never let it happen again.

"The success of Oklahoma City was a fire in my veins. I was a fo---"

Louis shot forward; I never saw the short vicious slap he delivered. The crack of his hand meeting my cheekbone sounded like a 9mm pistol fired in an echo chamber. I found myself on the tile floor, the left side of my face numb, my left ear screaming with a high-pitched whine.

As my senses returned, I felt sure my eardrum was ruptured. I was afraid to move my mouth, fearing my jaw was surely broken. Still a bit senseless, I felt a hand grasp my belt and Louis hauled me to my feet.

I couldnít raise my head and I was afraid to remove my hand from my jaw; positive it would separate from the rest of my face --- Louis shoved me into a chair.

I felt, rather than saw him resume his seat; his chair scraped the floor as he pulled it close to mine. He cupped my chin and pulled my face upright, there was an intense stab of pain and I squeaked involuntarily. Louis ignored my cowardice and with his nose only inches from mine, he began to speak in a soft quiet voice.

"You are fortunate, my brother, your success was complete in Oklahoma City. You are fortunate your arrogant stupidity in Carsonís Ferry appeared accidental. Only by the Grace of Allah are you yet breathing. Some of our Group wanted the pleasure of slitting your throat and offering your worthless carcass as dessert to a large, ugly alligator --- Sit up --- Stop holding your head like a drunken fool." A tiny mist of spittle emphasized a word here and there.

He shook my chin again for good measure; I bit down on the inside of my cheek to keep from crying out.

He sighed, leaned back and shook his head, a sad look on his face.

"We saw great promise in you, Paul. We prayed very hard, asking God for His guidance in this matter. We believe He has shown the way by protecting you from your own recklessness. Now you start over. We extend only the minimum of trust, as we did when you were a boy."

I couldnít help myself large tears streaked my face.

I was grateful, but more to the point, my jaw was swelling, the pain quite severe. I gathered myself, sitting up straight, folding my hands in my lap.

"Thank you, great sir and all those who prayed on my behalf. I give you my oath as I did so many years ago. I will do my duty as you see fit, I will not fail you again."

Louis nodded once, his face again a stern mask, I shuddered in both pain and terror.

"Over the next few years you will be tested. Do not be fooled by the mundane tasks you are asked to complete, your reliability will be checked and rechecked. The Leader and I still have hope for you, we still believe in you. But make no mistake, my friend --- Should you fail again? Allow your egotism to cloud your judgment? I personally will deliver you to the death of a traitor. Do you understand all I have said here today?"

I nodded, dumbly, anxious to be away. My face needed an ice pack, and I was beginning to wonder if I would lose my bowels before being dismissed.

"Very well --- Listen carefully. The young men you met today are pilots. They are in the United States to attend flight training schools. In the next five to six years small groups will arrive, all for the same purpose; commercial airline pilot training. Those who attend schools in Florida will be your responsibility. You will see to their needs, keep a detailed record of their progress. You will report any occurrence that could jeopardize successful completion of each manís course. Understood?"

Even now, nine years later, I still feel the hard, callused hand of Louis Mayia on my jaw. I have a lump that gives my face a lopsided look, itís never gone away. I didnít want to upset Louis further, or draw attention to myself, by seeking medical assistance. As Iíve grown older, and lost considerable weight, I now look something like the actor Robert Blake with mumps on one side.

The years have passed swiftly. My friend and superior, Louis, was correct when he described my duties as mundane. He couldíve added boring, but I deserve no less. Iíve taken care of my trainee pilots; Iíve run their errands and kept them out of trouble. Iíve helped guide and protect over a hundred men of all size and description. Some of my charges had great intelligence, some average, but one was so stupid he actually told his instructor to bypass the landing process. When questioned by the instructor he explained he was only interested in learning the flight procedures. What is more difficult to believe is the reaction of the schoolís instructor; he simply shook his head and continued the lessons. My people eventually completed their course of study and were taken away to await assignment.

Our organization plans our campaigns with care, we are extremely patient. I, of course, was not informed of our next major attack on the rotting giant known as America.

On September 11, 2001, several of my people flew into Allahís glory, taking 3,000 infidels to the Justice of God. Both before and after this ingenious feat, our most miraculous of victories, we have carried out smaller operations --- The giant, America, only loses more resolve.

I have earned my way back. I now hold the respect and trust of my superiors once again. For the past few months Iíve been involved in an intensive training program. Had someone told me I would be expected to absorb material of this nature, I would have laughed at the impossibility, but God is Great. God is Good. Allah has guided me, making the lessons understandable, at least those parts I must comprehend to carry out my final mission.


JOURNAL ENTRY 3/15/2004

The delivery was late. I worried, pacing and trembling like a woman. When I was about to call Florida, when my stomach was threatening to empty itself in a most ungodly way, the van suddenly appeared out of the swirling snow and pulled into the driveway.

I ran out into the cold, blowing snow, and for the first time since leaving my homeland, I missed the hot deserts of my fatherís sheep farm.

"Turn the truck around --- Yes --- Around. Deliver in the garage --- Yes, I will guide you."

The driver handed me a powerful torch and freezing to death, I guided him to the open garage.

We unloaded the crate with extreme care, it was smaller and much lighter than Iíd imagined. Securely attached to the dolly, the driver and I eased the crate down the cellar steps at the rear of the garage. I was extremely anxious to begin my preparations, and so I pumped the hand of the driver and guided him out, thanking him profusely for his help.

The bumper of the van barely cleared the garage door when I closed and locked it and then double checked my security arrangements. I entered the basement again, locking the cellar doors from the inside, then hurried to call Louis and confirm the delivery.

Perhaps someday a picture of this little house on Dickerson Street in Platteville, Wisconsin, will be included in an exhibit of Islamic History, perhaps even I ---

"What time did you receive delivery?"

Louisí voice seemed strained. I quickly explained the storm, the late arrival of the van.

"You have not examined the contents then?"

"No sir. I was quite worried myself. I expected delivery before noon and weíre nearing 5:00 PM."

"I was about to call and inform you of the delay when the driver arrived."

"Very well. Weather is not accountable; it is the will of God. Examine the entire package. If there is damage, if it appears anything is missing, call me at once. If all is correct, you have your instructions. There will be no need to contact me until you are safely back home. Your checklist is long, youíve already lost 5 hours or more, get to work now."

The dial tone was loud in my ear. Louis didnít even say good-bye, but I was much too excited to care. I hurried back to the cellar and opened the crate --- carefully.

I set the lid aside, then removed a thick Styrofoam insert. Iíve seen pictures of the device; at one point I worked on a mock-up, but the real thing takes my breath away.

Itís cylindrical in shape, except at the nose, where a hump disturbs its clean, curved line. Overall length is 1.2 meters with a diameter about the size of a basketball. Its beautiful skin is constructed of several exotic alloys with titanium and platinum making up the majority of the mixture.

Back and forth, my eyes moved like hungry mouths, eager to devour this work of art. I had been assured a clean room was unnecessary because all components were sealed before shipment. Nonetheless, I didnít touch its surface until I put on a new pair of non-static gloves.

The device rests in a set of slings, the bottom and sides buffered by the same molded Styrofoam Iíd taken from the top of the device. Sliding my fingers along the hard, smooth surface sends a tingle right through the glove and up my arm. The feeling is almost sexual in nature --- Iím blushing, even though I am quite alone.

Reaching the hump, I see the small digital readout, a cursor blinks patiently. Below the readout is a tiny keypad and seams indicating the panel, here Iíll perform my tasks.

My tasks --- The instructions! --- I realized I hadnít seen them. A checklist was to be included, a set-up code I am to use in programming the arming functions of the device. Going around the crate, I checked the sides and found nothing. Then I remembered the lid and looked at the underside. There, sealed in heavy plastic, and stapled to the wood was a leather-bound book. I used my needle nose pliers to remove the staples, then replaced the lid.

Upstairs, I poked the fire to life and poured a cup of tea. I read the instructions thoroughly. At last --- I was ready to begin the task for which I was trained.


JOURNAL ENTRY 3/16/2004

Iíve slept a total of four hours out of the last thirty-eight, Iím so tired. If I stop moving Iíll doze off in an instant. Itís now 3:00 PM Tuesday afternoon and my preparations are complete. Iíve made up the hours lost due to the late delivery of the bomb and yet Iíve managed to comply with the checklist to the letter. The final detonation sequence is complete and Iím again on schedule.

Iím extremely proud of my accomplishment. I give thanks to Allah and to the motivation of Louis Mayia for my success. I long to report my efficiency, but I realize my egotism is going into high gear again. I have determined that fatigue disrupts my thought process and fatigue was the major factor involved in my rash behavior of 1995. I cannot --- I will not --- make the same mistake again. Praise Allah. Praise the Great God of Islam.

Iíve set my alarm for 2:00 AM At last, I will have a full eight hours sleep.

At 2:30 in the morning you donít expect to find much entertainment on the radio, I was completely surprised to again hear Patsy Cline singing "Walkiní After Midnight." I laughed, as I remembered traveling that dark country road in South Georgia so many years ago. I prepared a large breakfast of oatmeal, eggs and toast. I could enjoy my food in a leisurely fashion before going over my program and setting checklist one last time.

According to my instructions, Iím to begin the ignition process at 9:00 AM sharp on Wednesday, March 17, 2004 --- St. Patrickís Day. It is said, in the Christian world at least, Saint Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland on this day. In the future the date will have a greater significance. The Muwahhidun will destroy a good portion of the rotting giant, who propagates the so-called "Western Civilization". True Islam will then reign supreme. God is Good. God is Great. All Praise and Glory to Allah.

8:45 AM is here --- Iím charged with energy. Iím ready to take the final step into Islamic History. My new SUV is packed; the car is running, warming up in the garage above me.

Louis has assured me sixteen hours is more than enough time to drive the necessary 769 kilometers south to safety.

Atmospheric conditions are perfect for the complete success of our operation. Powerful upper level winds making up a jet stream are cutting through Plattville, Wisconsin. These winds are driving great masses of air in a southeasterly direction. They will widen on leaving the state, their heavy swirling winds sweeping our deadly nuclear energy into the Chicago Metropolitan area. Those same winds will disperse the contamination to all communities in a north, south swath equaling an overall 1287.4 kilometers; at least that is the estimate of our meteorologists.

The initial blast will kill all life within a 56.3 kilometer radius and leave the region uninhabitable for 25 to 30 years. A big surprise is in store for the complacent infidels of the United States.

Iíve decided to send a copy of this journal to my family in the Golan. All but these final notes are in the file attachment and ready for Email transfer. I check my watch as I enter these final comments --- 15 seconds --- I turn the key. My finger is on the fuse toggle, I cannot describe my joy. The second hand clicks on 12 and I push the toggle upward.


Jamal ibn al Din, a.k.a. Paul Moreno, heard the soft whir and click and smiled as he packed up the laptop.

By keeping a journal heíd violated all protocols of security. He reasoned, therefore, sending along a few pictures of the house and workshop added no further breach.

He smiled as he thought of his mother and father, sisters and brothers. They were sheepherders and farmers; they had no egos that cried for satisfaction. The possibility they might share his writings or pictures with others would never cross their minds --- He had no doubts.

He pushed the leather strap of the carrying case over his shoulder and took one last look at his basement workshop. Years from now the Islamic Historical Societies will undoubtedly fight for his journal and the few snapshots. Perhaps his family will achieve an elevated status due to his forethought in providing a written and photographic account of his achievements. Wanting a better life for his family could not be sinful in the eyes of Allah, The Good and Great Holy God.

Paul Moreno crossed the room to the stairs. A second whir and click stopped him and he looked back at the device.

When he pushed the toggle to the up configuration, the detonation protocol was set. The device is not engineered to re-set. He stood frozen as he heard several rapid clicks followed by a soft, high-pitched whine. Paul saw the blinking cursor turn suddenly red as it pulsed in time with a beep - beep - beep - beep - beep. Paul Morenoís eyes grew large and round and a profound and complete silence absorbed him.


ORLANDO, FLORIDA
MARCH 17, 2004 - 10:09 AM

"We interrupt our regular programming for a Special Fox News Alert --- Good morning. A powerful explosion has ripped through the southern portion of the State of Wisconsin. Information is sketchy at this time, but one report from a town some fifty miles to the southeast of the believed epicenter, describe a hot, heavy wind, and shaking similar to an earthquake. We are attempting to make contact with our news affiliates in Madison, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois. Please stay tuned; we will update this story as more information is developed.

Repeating --- A powerful explosion is reported originating in the southern portion of the State of Wisconsin. We have not pinpointed the exact location at this time. Please stay tuned for further updates on this most important development."

Louis Mayia pushed the mute button on the remote and stood. He stretched his back muscles; heíd tossed and turned all night. He should know better, he thought, than to second-guess the Leader.

He looked down at the gray sweatshirt he wore, stained here and there with dribbles of the strong tea he favored. His stomach, he noted, continued to expand, pushing against the elastic of his dark blue sweatpants. He looked forward to going home, eating properly again. Perhaps then his belly would be flat instead of giving him the appearance of a pregnant woman --- Louis sensed a presence.

"Imam. Please forgive my appearance. I have not had my rest the past few days."

The man with the fierce black eyes bowed slightly. He was impeccable in a dark gray suit, deep scarlet tie and matching pocket-handkerchief.

His hair and beard were carefully combed and trimmed, behind him a large valise sat on the floor. The manís eyes seem to cut like a laser into Louisí soul.

"You are ready to leave, Imam? I thought you were planning to depart tomorrow. There is preliminary news. Theyíre not sure what type of explosion yet; by the time they know it will be too late --- Jamal has completed his mission as instructed --- A welcome change."

The tall, thin man indicated his valise with his brutal eyes.

"I must be in Mexico before air travel is shut down completely. You and your team have done well, Louis. By this time next week most of the eastern part of the United States will be destroyed, the Country virtually leaderless. Our sleeper teams will release the bacterial elements at key military installations later this afternoon. By the end of the month America will be ours --- Can the rest of the world deny us?" He nodded as if in agreement with himself. "I think not."

The Leader adjusted the knot of his tie and brushed away a spot of lint.

"I will drive your car to the airport, Louis. I will leave it in the short-term lot. You agree? Good. Please help me with the valise. After Iím gone you may take one of your sinful showers, I will pray to Allah for your forgiveness."

The Imam smiled and stepped to the side, Louis hurried forward.

"I am honored, Holy One. I will load your suitcase and start the car."

Louis bent, reaching for the valise, and the Imam stepped forward. He shot him twice, in rapid succession, behind the right ear. The pops of the 22-caliber pistol barely left the confines of the living room.

The Leader stood quietly --- listening. There was no sound of alarm from the surrounding neighborhood. Heíd brought a washcloth from the bathroom, and he wiped the gun clean before dropping it on the carpet next to the ruined head of Louis Mayia.

The Imam looked at his watch as the phone rang in the kitchen. He crossed the hall, and using the washcloth, took the receiver --- He answered the call before the second ring.

"Yes."

The Imam closed his eyes in concentration.

"Very well. Iím finished here --- No --- There are no delays. Yes --- You can testify with confidence before the United Nations Security Council. Those who could refute your words no longer exist --- Have faith in the power of Allah, man, the United Nations will soon be The United Islamic Nations yes? --- Who is to stop us after today? God is Good. God is Great. All praise to Allah."

The End of The Beginning

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