Mark Talacko – Groupthink – America

2011/09/14 § 1 Comment


Howdy-do, Buckaroo.

Things are grand in the heart of this living empire.

The buildings shine white and grass grows thick on the
bones of decaying armies.

Statues and monoliths weather the elements to bring hope and ensure the ideas that
bind the Empire are not lost and forgotten.

At DuPont circle, a man walks assuredly around the fountain for hours on end, laughing to himself and bursting into tears.

At I and 15th, two men of the law chat amiably at a red
light, thick coronas smoking in their left hands, while
their right hands rest firmly on the throttle of their motorized steeds.

In the trunk of the car behind them, the
body of a young girl decomposes.

A man, his vesture immaculately tailored, ascends from
the metro and enters a mirrored hive. He passes the
outstretched palm of a woman, dirty and deep-lined with years.

A group of school children follow their teacher up the
capitol steps, as waves of Latvians, Chinese, Hondurans,
Israelis, Russians, Samoans, Argentineans, Cambodians,
Uzbekistanis, Moroccans, Mexicans, Pakistanis, Kenyans,
Namibians, Germans, British, Venezuelans, French,
Laotians, Jamaicans, Columbians, Egyptians, Senegalese,
Tongans, Canadians, Koreans, Vietnamese, Iranians, Swedes
and the Dutch race by with their cameras and swelled imaginations.

A man sits quietly by the reflecting pool whittling an inchoate form from a piece of cherry wood with a buffalo bone handle knife.

He observes a group of fattened senators slap each other on the back in necessary camaraderie.

The children reach the top of the steps – their shuffling
feet so small and tender – and turn to face the stretch of the

The teacher delivers a propagated speech that
brings tears to the eye of a veteran ambling by as the
children stare in wonder at the grass, so strong and
green, while their young fingers and noses twitch with

The teacher lets them breathe the Empire in. And then
herds them into the Capitol with a great sense of pride
and accomplishment in a duty well done.

One little girl lags behind.

She steps out of the swarm of her classmates
and takes a seat on the steps.

She observes the scene for herself.

Her young mind, free from the loudspeaker of her
teacher’s voice, begins to hum, fusing the words of her
teacher and its own experiences together to form
questions and knowledge.

Her eyes wander down from the copper back of Grant and
his horse to meet those of the whittling man.

He returns her stare. His eyes are deep and piercing.

She is scared.

Her mind flashes battle cries, feathers and bare-chested
warriors with whizzing tomahawks; taut bows and sharp
daggers between teeth. Words spring from books read and
things heard. Images glow from things seen through
projected eyes.
She should flee and join her class but her fear is checked by his smile. It draws her.

She walks down the steps to him, her mind moving into new realms and planes, recording and connecting.

“Hi,” he says crouching down to her level as she timidly approaches him.

“Hi,” she whispers.

“My name is John,” he pauses. “What’s your name?”

“Susie,” she says, a little louder than before, but dropping her eyes to his shoes.

“Hi, Susie. Are you having a good time in Washington?”

“Yes.” She looks up at him.

He smiles warmly.

She feels the tension leave her body. She smiles warmly in return.

“Are you learning a lot?”

“Uh-hmm,” she nods.

“Do you like learning?”

“Uh-hmm,” she nods again.

“That’s good, Susie. You remember to always keep your mind open and learn, OK?”

“OK,” she smiles.

She bounces on her toes, and looks around her, “Um…are you an In’jun?”

John smiles. His deep eyes twinkle.

“Yes,” he says in a voice filled with laughter. Susie relaxes.

“I thought In’juns were bad,” Susie says. Her eyes look askingly at John’s.

“Well, there are bad Indians, just like there’s bad every bodies. And there’s good Indians, just like there’s good every bodies. Have you noticed?”

“Uh-hmm,” Susie nods her head. “There’s this boy who always pulls my hair when we have tests,” she says quickly, surprised at her own voice.

“And you think he’s bad?”

Susie nods her head.

“And are there any good kids in your school? Your friends?”

Susie beams, “Kim’s my best friend. She always gives me her apple sauce at lunch because she doesn’t like it.”

“That’s a good friend,” John smiles.

“You’re a good In’jun, right?”

“What do you think, Susie?”

“Ya. I think so. You’re nice.”

Susie smiles at him with her eyes.

“Thank you, Susie.”

“SUSIE?” The teacher’s worried voice booms from the capitol steps, “SUUUUSIE!”
Susie whips her head around and waves to her teacher. Her teacher spots her.

“Get up here young lady,” she shouts, her left hand motioning angrily up the steps, while her right hand remains planted firmly on her hip. The people turn to watch.

“I gotta go,” Susie says, standing in place.

“I hope I didn’t get you in any trouble.”

“No. Ms.Washington is always yelling.”

“Is she bad, Susie?”

“I don’t think so. She lets us have class outside on nice days.”

“That’s nice.”

A silence lingers in the air.

“Well, it was nice meeting you, Susie.”

“You too.”

“SUSIE! Get up here now!” Ms. Washington yells.

“‘Bye,” Susie says, turning to run.

“Wait Susie.”

She stops and turns back around.

“Here you go.”

John gently takes Susie’s hands and places the whittling work into them.

“Now, scoot along, before your teacher gets really mad,” he says, pushing her softly away.

“Thanks,” she says and moves off slowly.

“Remember, you learn something new every day, OK?” he calls after her.


“I will,” she says over her shoulder, and races up the steps.

“Don’t you ever get away from the class like that again,
do you hear me? The whole group has had to wait because
of you. Who was that man? What did he say to you? Who was
he, hmm?” Ms. Washington rattles on breathlessly.

“That was john. He was nice.”

Susie smiles at the angry Ms. Washington.

“He told me to learn every day,” Susie says, hiding the whittling in her hands against her belly.

“Well, that’s good,” Ms. Washington pauses, somewhat
confused. “Come on. We’re all waiting,” she says, the
anger gone from her voice.

Susie turns to John and waves.

John waves back.

Ms. Washington hesitantly raises her arm to give a wavering salute.

“Come on Susie,” Ms. Washington says, and she turns, pushing Susie gently in front of her to rejoin her class.

As they walk deeper into the Capitol, under its arching columns and balustrades, Susie opens her hands to see what John gave her. In her soft, pink palms rests a magnificent eagle with a broken wing.

Author Biography
A father and husband

A writer
Procreating in the physical and mental realms
Betting on infinity with ink and sperm

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