{mosimage}“LET ME MAKE THIS PERFECTLY CLEAR,” Hector Schechner whispers to me in his private cell at San Berdoo Subversive Detention Center & Wildlife Preserve. “I never made any threats on the president’s life, or the vice president’s life, or anyone else’s life. All I did was suggest, politely, in a late-night infomercial, that certain criminal authorities apologize for their crimes and commit suicide. What’s the big fuckin’ deal?”

Schechner accidentally raises his voice at this last bit, which catches the attention of Officer Hugo Pies, the guard seated at the desk around the corner.

“Language!” says Pies. “I told you before!”

LAST NIGHT, MY SENIOR RESEARCH associate, Ms. Pines, played back the voice mail from Schechner’s lawyer. The message explained how, at 5 a.m. yesterday, armed Homeland Security officials entered Schechner’s residence uninvited, arrested Schechner for sedition and transported him by helicopter to the detention center, where he’s now, rightly, freaking out.

I hadn’t heard the term sedition used in any official way in a long time. One of my grandfathers did some time for sedition back in the late ’30s, after trying to help unionize some Ohio steelworkers. Even after Grandpa explained it, I never quite understood what establishing workers’ rights had to do with overthrowing a government. Grandpa learned a lot in jail, though. He shared his cell with future five-time Communist Party presidential candidate Gus Hall.

“Fucking hell,” I exclaimed upon first seeing Schechner in his cell, wearing a pink jump suit. And right after I said it, Officer Pies slapped a firm hand on my shoulder and said, “You’re in the San Berdoo Subversive Detention Center & Wildlife Preserve, sir. That kind of language is not available here.”

“Yes, sir.” (I’m a complete wimp around the heavily armed.)

Schechner’s lawyer messengered me a transcript of Schechner’s infomercial this morning, which was the first I’d heard of it. I’ve been out of touch with Schechner for a few months.

Officer Pies has forbidden my laptop but allowed me to bring one pad of paper, two pens and the transcript into the cell, which has been temporarily furnished with a small table and two chairs.

“Have you read it?” Schechner asks, indicating the transcript, which I’ve placed on the table between us.

“Not yet. Should I? Or is this all a fucking joke?”


“Sorry!” I call out weakly.

“No joke,” Schechner whispers. “They’re saying I incited people to kill the president.”

“Did you?”

“Heck no!” says Schechner. “I bought some new video equipment, and I was just testing it out.”

Hector Schechner reduced to using the word heck — it’s almost too much to bear.

“My God,” I whisper. “What have they done to you?”

Schechner shrugs and pushes the transcript toward me.

l l l



An old oak desk flanked by two American flags and backed by floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with impressive-looking hardbacks. A man’s face, then neck, then body slowly rises from behind the desk. The face wears an obvious toupee and a fake mustache; the neck wears a red tie; the body, a white shirt and well-fitting navy-blue suit. The man sits and crosses his hands on the desktop.

HOST (hector): Hello again. I’m Hector Schechner. Thanks for joining me for another edition of Bombs Away!, America’s favorite infomercial, where the Schechner Dancers and I politely suggest locations for our beloved leaders and their ragtag band of evildoing petro-criminals to leap to their deaths from Air Force One, but only after apologizing for stealing our taxes to conduct a private war.

Cut to the same host at the same desk flanked by the same flags, but now outdoors, atop an apparent glacier, with no bookshelves behind them. Hector wears a star-spangled parka.

HECTOR: Welcome to our first polite suggestion, the Grinnell Glacier in beautiful Glacier National Park in the glorious state of Montana. Note that what you are about to see is only a computerized simulation — a serving suggestion, if you will, not unlike blueberries added to promotional photographs of breakfast cereal. And now, let’s welcome the Schechner Dancers!

CUE STRIPPER MUSIC. Six dour, elderly women enter frame, three from each side. They’re bundled up and carrying shopping bags. They do not dance.

HECTOR: Ready, ladies?

ALL, IN UNISON: Five! Four! Three! Two! One!

HECTOR: Bombs away!

A safe distance beyond the desk, a dozen or so screaming bodies plummet from the sky and burrow deep into the snow. STRIPPER MUSIC ENDS; “STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER” BEGINS. The dancers drop their shopping bags, lock elbows and dance chorus-line style. Hector dances atop the desk.

Cut to Hector, now alone, seated at the same desk with the same flags, again outdoors but now in the crossfire of urban Middle Eastern street fighting. Things explode. Bullets whiz past. Hector wears a khaki vest over his suit and tie.

HECTOR: Welcome to our second polite suggestion, the majestic city of Baghdad! Again, what you are about to see is not real. It’s a computerized simulation — a serving suggestion, if you will, not unlike syrup added to promotional photographs of pancake mix. And now, once again, please welcome the Schechner Dancers!

CUE STRIPPER MUSIC. Six dour, elderly women enter frame, three from each side . . .

l l l

I TAKE A DEEP BREATH, close the transcript, lean back and heave a sigh. “I think I get the picture,” I say. “I . . . can’t believe you did this. And it was broadcast.”

“You didn’t read the last page,” says Schechner, his whisper gaining intensity. “There’s a disclaimer! I said it out loud, on the air! I say, ‘Don’t kill these people, just encourage them to kill themselves!’ Is there not still a fucking First Amendment?

“LANGUAGE!” barks Pies. “I MEAN IT, NOW!”

“That’s not what I’m talking about, Schechner, and you know it! You . . . you heck! I can’t believe you wrote, produced and directed this whole thing without inviting me along!”

“I know,” Schechner sighs. “I’m sorry. You should be in here too.”

“If only for the pink jump suit.”

“That’d make your Grandpa Meyer proud.”

“THAT’S IT!” cries Officer Pies. “YOU’RE FUCKIN’ OUTTA HERE!!”

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