Tobias Tubuggles had been kind enough to share with us some of the food from the limited stocks at the bleak safe house. The urine-soaked hard-tack he passed onto us would help keep us going on the journey ahead. We were going backwards now, returning to the estate of the illustrious senator, Lord Cabot Eulridge. We spent much time in discussion regarding how his gentle manservant, the gracious and kind Mr. Gonsalves, would react upon our return.
Twist took the lead, anxious to get on with the ghostly summoning and the injection of frightful feeling into Lord Cabot Eulridge. Jonathan walked behind him, reading a book of poems written by lonely young girls who weren't pretty enough for any kind of work other than getting bloodied up and baiting dogs for the weekly cock and canine fights in the basements of every town's favorite strip mall. Donald Fagen walked behind Jonathan, constantly trying to engage him in some form of rudimentary conversation. I took the rear, not only because I felt confident in my aural and oral abilities, but because I liked the way the buttocks of the other men swayed in front of me along the way.
Two soldiers, who had recently returned from a bit of soldiering abroad, were just ahead of us on the road. They were attempting to solder something together with less than ample efficiency. The soldering soldiers were not of interest to us, and we tried to slip unseen past their efforts to melt small bits of metal for quick and easy repair of their vehicle. We were not entirely successful as one soldier called to us and asserted that he wished to gaze upon our faces in greater vicinity to his own.
"What can we do for you, guvnah?"
"We're just back from the wars abroad, lads. We were trying to get our bearings for the old head on home when we had some electrical problems with this old Acura that once belonged to my grandmother until she was hobbled for entertainment purposes. Might you have any electrical tape on your persons?"
"We are carrying little except for urine-soaked hard-tack and book of pathetic poetry and some personal items that are of sentimental value only. We sir, are the scum of this here Earth."
"We do not look down upon you, scummy and shoeless societal castaways. We have spent ten years apiece in the colonies fighting to subdue the unending insurgency against our rule over various foreign savages and so forth. We have seen much suffering and we will not turn a blind eye to it."
"It is much of an oxymoron to impose freedom upon others, is it not, gentle soldiers?" Jonathan asked of them.
"As much as it is to believe that concepts such as democracy can be exported. A pox upon those who believe that it can."
"Indeed, good soldiers. Indeed. Go on with your soldering, we have ghosts to summon for a most clever plan of revenge."
"We have a box of Florida oranges in the trunk of the ancient Acura, my friends. You are welcome to some of them, as the citrus is hard on the stomachs of soldiers who have inhaled ten years of the various chemical and biological agents of war."
We took the oranges and offered up much thanks to these two brave soldiers. It was a heavy box to carry and we found ourselves wishing we had brought the midget with us. Since he was smaller than us and we could threaten him with much ease, he could be forced to carry the oranges into the east. In lieu of midget box-bearers, we took turns carrying the oranges and took the time to eat some of them in order to satisfy our stomachs and to lighten the load.
As we continued our long walk, the final words of the soldier repeated in my mind. "Freedom must be won. It must be earned. It cannot be given. It cannot come from outside. It must come from inside."
We came to a mighty river, which interrupted the flow of the soldier's words, which had repeated themselves in my mind for nearly a fortnight. The bridge was controlled by two well-groomed men in black suits and sunglasses. They had the look of honor and dignity that came with working for the very important and worthwhile Department of Homeland Security upon them, so we chose not to attempt to reason with them, as it was obvious they would not offer an ear to our needs. We would have to get across the river by other means and I strongly sensed those other means would involve becoming wet, or at the very least, damp in some sense of the word.
We found a place to ford across the river with a minimal amount of overall wetness to encapsulate us. Negotiating with rocks and fallen trees, we made it across the river only to find ourselves face to face with the black-suited men of Homeland Security on the opposite bank. Our efforts to slip past them had been in vain. A wiser course may have involved choosing a place to ford the river that was more than ten feet away from the bridge.
"We need to see your papers, please."
"We have no papers. We are wretched vermin with no lives worthy to be called our own, for we are born into poverty and loss and in poverty and loss we are destined to remain."
"Then we will not shoot you, as your kind is unworthy. One bullet, which could be fired into your brain to cause almost instant death, is of far greater worth than all of your miserable lives put together."
"Your words hold great truth, great defender of the homeland. We only seek to pass in peace and return to the lands of our master, for we became lost in a storm."
"There have been no storms of note in recent days. Of what do you speak?"
"It was a little rainy on Tuesday."
The two federal agents looked at each other for a moment, paused and then nodded in unison. "There is truth in what you say. We were both in a situation where we needed to put on our galoshes on Tuesday. You may go."
From the river it took another week to reach the borders of the property held in the name of Lord Cabot Eulridge. We were relieved to finally have come upon our destination, and finding a quiet grove of pine trees, we opened a the box of oranges and dined quietly on them while we considered the width of our plan.
"The first step is to summon Bob Marley's ghost. Am I correct?" I asked Fagen.
"Yes. Without Bob Marley, the other ghosts appear without the proper introduction and tend to get taken out of context by the victim of the haunting."
"So, how do we summon the ghost of this great man?"
Donald Fagen sat down and took his two-stringed guitar, which he kept strapped to his back as he walked. He began strumming and then began singing to us in a beautiful, angelic and almost feminine sounding voice.
Let them all pass all their dirty remarks
There is one question I'd really love to ask
Is there a place for the hopeless sinner
Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own?
Fagen paused and kicked around in the dirt with his shoe until he found a partially cracked wine goblet amongst the other refuse that littered our path. He place it on the rock next to him and nodded at us before he began strumming again.
"What's that for?" Twist asked him with confusion washing over his face.
Let's get together to fight this Holy Armageddon
So when the Man comes there will be no, no doom
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
There ain't no hiding place from the Father of Creation
"Can you sing the chorus so we can join in and all sing together? That would unify the group in some ways."
Fagen nodded and took a bite from an orange before standing up with his guitar and taking us slowly through the chorus so we could sing along effectively with the correct words instead of ones we slipped into the song out of ignorance.
One love, one heart
Let's get together and feel all right
Hear the children crying
Hear the children crying
Sayin', "Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right."
Sayin', "Let's get together and feel all right."
We slept better than night than we had in years, the words and music of this dead rabble rouser igniting our passions and our faith in ourselves for the first time in our collective memories. We felt alive and we felt as if there was something we could do to make our lives matter in the larger context. Somehow we could feel the meaning in the words of this prophet. Money, rank and privilege were no measure of a man's worth. Something else was.
The following night was Christmas Eve, and this would be the night of the summoning. Donald Fagen was precise in his descriptions of how we had to first set the mood before we could dare to summon Bob Marley's ghost to the most unholy estate of Lord Cabot Eulridge. We spent the entire day gathering berries and insects for a virtual feast, while we hummed the tune Fagen had taught us. As we dined, we swayed as we repeated the one line that really grabbed us and spoke to us. "Let's get together and feel all right..."
"The summoning shall now begin."
Fagen went into a trance while Twist, Jonathan and myself looked on, not knowing if we needed to do something or if watching Fagen so closely was rude. His eyelashes fluttered, his eyelids closed and smoke began to issue forth from his mouth. We wondered if he had contacted Marley's ghost or if he was smoking an invisible cigarette from the netherworld.
He maintained his trance for over two hours, and when he came out of it, he was flushed and frustrated. He had contacted the spirit of this Bob Marley, but the spirit was unwilling to do his bidding. This left Fagen at a loss for words, for he felt himself becoming a great disappointment to us. As the tears welled up in his eyes, I looked at my friends and began humming.
One love, one heart
Let's get together and feel all right
Jonathan understood immediately the intention of my sudden singing and joined in. Twist was not far behind, but it took him longer to process the information and he was unaware of the power of subtle emotional manipulation. Within seconds, all four of us were singing again and we did not stop until we saw the ghost of Dwight D. Eisenhower standing next to our camp.
After a long, uncomfortable silence had passed, with Eisenhower looking upon us with great consternation, Donald Fagen finally spoke. "Well, this is quite a quandary, my friends. The first of the three ghosts is here and there is no ghost to handle the introductions."
"What if I dressed up like a ghost?" I wondered.
"Ghostly garments are not for the living!"
"Well, there is a basic truth no one spends a lot of time thinking about. Do you have another idea? How can we send Eisenhower in there without a proper introduction?"
"Where's MacArthur? I want to kick his ass." We were not well prepared for the moment at which Eisenhower's ghost decided to break the silence it had held for twenty minutes. He seemed edgy and angry. His eyes boiled and cut through us as if we were made of clear, non-reflecting glass. His hands were balled up into fists and if he did not get an answer to why he had been summoned within the next three minutes, he was going to kill all of us.
"I like Ike," whispered Jonathan quietly.
"Shut up, Minnesota punk. Why am I here? Don't waste my time. You interrupted my table tennis game with Jack Bruce."
"There is an entirely different paradigm for selecting your friends where you are, isn't there, Eisenhower's ghost?"
"Yes. Now, give me the breakdown. Are we landing on Omaha Beach or do you want to just scrap it?"
"That was pretty much already done. We just want you to throw a scare into a man who wears the amputated toes of a seven year old boy around his neck."
"Ike does not approve of that. Veto."
"You don't approve of the plan to scare Lord Cabot Eulridge or you don't approve of him wearing little boy toes around his neck?"
"Ike is opposed to the mutilation of small children."
"So, you will participate in this haunting because it is for a good reason and the cause is deserving?"
"Just lay it down for me, boys. What's the plan? Do you just want me to walk around going 'booooooo' or do you want something more elaborate."
"You are a most willing and gracious ghost, President Eisenhower."
"Call me Ike. Now, spill it, soldier."
"We want you to take him on a tour of the past, to show him what life was like before cruelty and suffering became the way of the land. We want you to pluck at his heartstrings and attempt to awaken his dormant emotions. You will be the first of three ghosts."
"Who else are you getting?"
"Franklin Pierce and William Howard Taft. We can call in Frank Purdue if necessary, but he's completely on the back burner for now."
"Franklin Pierce? Who in the hell summons the ghost of Franklin Pierce? Your victim won't even know who the hell he is. I barely know who he is and that is just because I used to have a picture book with pictures of the previous presidents on them."
"We're on a budget."
Dickens' America: Chapter Four
Dickens' America: Chapter Two
Lyrics to "One Love" are copyrighted by Island Records
And are used with the permission of Bob Marley's ghost
(Fair use, mon)