Novel excerpt from Jeff Rasley

The virus, the lockdown, the protests, the riots, and Donald Trump made me crazy

Nondescript shadowed human figure raising a fist in front of a burning building.
Jeff Rasley’s novel

Then the corona virus hit. When the mayor and governor issued their “Hoosier hunker-down” orders my feeling of isolation and alienation really spiked. The housekeeper and lawn-maintenance guy I hired couldn’t come to the house. I couldn’t go out to eat or even get a cup of coffee at the Starbucks on Illinois and 56th Street. I felt so lonely with nobody to talk to.

I started feeling irrationally irritable and had terrible mood swings. I threw the toaster down on the kitchen floor and then stomped on it. I was furious, because two pieces of toast burned. I probably set the timer on for too long, but I didn’t care whether it was my fault or the toaster’s. I just wanted to smash the damn thing. One time, I went outside through the front door and then went around back to survey the condition of the backyard lawn. I thought the backdoor into the screened-in porch was unlocked, but it wasn’t. Ordinarily, that would have been mildly irritating. I would have grunted and then walked back around the house to the front door. But I was so upset I started pulling on the handle of the screen door as hard as I could. When I couldn’t break the lock, I drove my fist through the screen and unlocked the door. I didn’t fix the screen. The hole in the screen is probably still there, a testament to my temper tantrum.

I sat in front of the TV hour after hour watching the news about how Trump was fucking up the government’s response to the spreading corona virus infection. Why didn’t he invoke the federal government’s power under the Defense Production Act as soon as the virus hit Washington State? All the experts knew how fast-spreading and dangerous this corona virus could be? Instead, he ignores the CDC’s advice and downplays the risk to the nation’s health. Not until mid April, when it’s way too late, does Trump finally use some of the government’s power under the DPA, and even then it’s a half-assed measure. Not enough testing, not enough ventilators, not enough PPE, not enough swabs.

The number of infections kept rising. By the end of March the US led the world in infections and deaths caused by the virus. What does Trump do? He refuses to wear a mask. He’s not going to look like a weakling. Testing? Overrated. It increases the number of infections. Why doesn’t the country have enough PPE and ventilators? Obama’s fault. The President is in charge, but if there’s any failure, it’s the fault of governors and mayors. He keeps repeating his mantra, “The situation is under control.” Pence’s team will whip the virus. Or was it Jared’s team? This virus isn’t as bad as the flu. America always wins. Doesn’t matter who or what the enemy is, we always triumph. We’re going to kill that little bug. Those people wearing masks are doing it to spite me, Donald J. Trump, the greatest President in history. “The situation is under control.”

But the deaths keep mounting. It surpasses annual deaths from auto accidents, 34,000. It surpasses US deaths in the Vietnam War, 58,000. It surpasses total deaths of US soldiers in World War I, 116,500, and it keeps going up.

What the fuck!? This is the United States of America! We’re supposed to have the best healthcare in the world, the best of everything. We’re Number One! Yeah, Trump made America great again. He said with him as President America would win so much we’d get tired of winning. Right on, man! We are Number One – in corona virus infections and deaths!

After spending all day switching back and forth among the cable news networks on TV, I’d turn off the television and get on my laptop and rant on Twitter about what an idiot the President was. That was my life during the lockdown.

When Trump started puffing hydroxychloroquine as a cure, I was sure he, or Jared and Ivanka, owned stock in a company that makes the drug. Why not? He’s tried to sell every product under the sun with his Trump brand. And then he muses about sticking a UV light down your gullet or drinking Clorox as a cure. Presidents aren’t supposed to muse about hair-brain schemes that will get some numbskull killed when he burns his throat with a tanning lamp or poisons himself with laundry bleach.

But there’s Trump on the tube again. He’s claiming victory over the virus. The jobs report is better than expected, so that proves the Trump-Pence team is winning. Hooray! The economy is already recovering. The CARES Act is working. He says America’s roaring back greater than ever. And by the way, Donald J. Trump has done more for African-Americans than any US president. Lincoln? All he did was free the slaves. Donald J. Trump gave ‘em all jobs.

So who ya gonna believe, the experts and scientists or Trump? I turn off the TV and open Twitter. What do I find? All these Trumpers are praising the President. “The situation is under control.” He’s saving us from the virus! He’s saving our jobs and the economy! Don’t believe those traitors in the media and that Dr. Fauci, who says things are getting worse. God chose The Donald for this moment. He has it under control.

I was cycling farther and farther down and I couldn’t stop it. It was as if Trump’s lies and crazy talk ripped off an old scab and it just kept bleeding. When the demonstrations started in Minneapolis after George Floyd was killed by that cop, that’s when something completely snapped in me and I really lost control.

I started losing track of what time it was, I mean, like, what year it was. Was Lyndon Johnson the President? I could hear my dad yelling to turn off the boob tube. But I couldn’t turn it off.

The talking heads on CNN are talking about the Kerner Commission Report. They keep saying the findings of the Kerner Report are still true today. Is it 1967? They say there are two Americas, one black and the other white. Black America is ripped off every which way, income, housing, job opportunity, education; the system is rigged against you, if you’re black. You can’t trust the police. They aren’t there to protect and serve, if you’re black. All these images of police beating or killing unarmed black people on my TV; faces scroll by, there’s Rodney King, Malice Wayne Green, Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and more to come.

Stuck alone in front of my TV every day seeing the street clashes between protesters and cops, and then shops going up in flames, stores and cop cars vandalized, looters busting out windows and jumping out of stores with stolen goods. I was losing my grounding in the present.

There he is on TV again! That big orange clown figure with that bloated face and ridiculous hair. He’s babbling about MAGA loves black people.

That’s it. I know what I have to do.

I dress in black. I pack the car. I don’t know how long it takes. I don’t know how many times I stop. I arrive in Washington D.C. What’s the date? A day or two before June first, I think.

I smell tear gas in the air. It draws me toward the White House. I walk in that direction. I’m dressed in black with a black bandana covering my face. There are lots of demonstrators around the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. Some are fighting with cops in Lafayette Square across from the White House. People are shouting, chanting, screaming. Cops with shields and batons are fighting protesters.

Then it happens. It’s around six thirty. Secret Service agents, military police, Park Police, National Guardsmen, and Arlington County Police all in riot gear advance on the demonstrators in Lafayette Square. A Black Hawk helicopter swoops out of the sky and hovers fifteen feet above ground blasting gusts of wind that snap tree limbs and send volleys of dust and broken glass like shrapnel tearing through the crowd of protesters. People are screaming and running for cover in panic and confusion.

There wasn’t any violent activity going on, just chanting and singing, people waving signs. But the forces of The Man are advancing. They shoot smoke canisters. They’re pushing the crowd of people with their shields. Protesters trip over each other trying to back away. People on the ground are beaten with batons. Heads, elbows, and knees are bleeding in the street. Cops shoot pepper balls. Horses charge defenseless demonstrators and trample them underfoot. Everyone is forced out of the park into H Street. A few protesters throw water bottles, but no one fights back. The pigs keep advancing and beating helpless protesters holding up their arms to shield their heads from baton blows.

I jog around past the melee on H Street, south past the White House grounds skirting the fence along the west and south lawns, and then toward the statue of Andrew Jackson on horseback. Lafayette Square is deserted now. I run through the little park. I sneak across H Street. I’m at the opposite end of the street from where the security forces are still attacking, pushing, and pummeling the protesters. I hide behind a large oak tree on the southeast corner of St. John’s Church’s grounds.

I have a clear view of The Man as he walks up to the parish house of St. John’s Church. There’s a group of men with the Evil One. I know I should recognize them from TV. Is that little Billy Barr? No matter. My mind is buzzing too much to get a clear signal. Two blond women are in the group. One is The Daughter. Then, He steps away from the group. He’s carrying a book. Yes! It’s The Bible. He’s standing there holding The Book. The final signal!

An excerpt from Jeff Rasley’s latest book, Anarchist, Republican… Assassin

jeffrasley@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *