|Mon, 12 Jun 2000
D Benway <email@example.com>
I've written a story.
I found it rather fun to write it, and thanks to the nature of the internet, you can take comfort in the fact that I almost certainly live a long way from where you do.
This story makes non-profit use of characters owned by Marvel Comics. It is not for the young, the sensitive, or the easily perturbed, and has parts that should not be read after a heavy meal.
The following apply:
1) Just because someone is a hero or a villain in the real books doesn't mean that they are a hero or a villain in this story.
2) The American presidents since 1956 were:
McCarthy, Kennedy, Johnson, Johnson, Kennedy, King, Bradley, Kennedy, Kennedy, Rodham, Rodham, and Rush.
In this America, hope dominates fear as all look to the future. Clearly, this is fiction.
3) The Vietnam War ended with the intervention of a UN mediator in 1964 and the Soviet Empire collapsed in 1970.
Many thanks to Luba, Tricia, and Alara for proof-reading. This and other work by me is kept in a locked padded room at the archive of Luba, located at http://home.att.net/~lubakmetyk.
Composed under the influence of:
Two weekends of Errol Morris documentaries.
The Ben Foulds Five
The neverending NPR coverage of the 2000 American presidential race.
1 Saskatoon (Today) / Jerusalem (1955)
Her room is very small. It is 12 feet by 10 feet, not including the bathroom that was once a closet. Along one wall there is a steel kitchenette unit that was once lime green. It contains a sink and a refrigerator that is so small that it puts the place in violation of the building codes. Next to the kitchenette is a small table with a kitchen chair. There are papers on the table, neatly stacked. They are the weekly problem sets turned in by 231 first year physics students at the University of Saskatchewan, where she works as a teaching assistant. There is a cheque on the table as well, still in its envelope. It is for a very small amount of money, less than half of what the alcoholic prostitute downstairs collects on Disability.
She also sleeps in the room. There is a small bed in one corner that she sits on. There is a plastic milk crate in one corner. A 13 inch colour television and a VCR sit on the crate. The remainder of the room is filled in by bookcases. There are two that block the two windows, nailed into place with two-by-fours. The bookcases are filled with expensive books on physics that were borrowed or stolen from a number of prairie university libraries. There is another bookcase and a file cabinet blocking the door, which is also sealed off by two-by-fours. None of this stops her from getting in and out. Her landlord could care less, as long as he gets his cheque each week. Not that he would complain if he did enter. The entire room and its attached bathroom are spotlessly clean from the orange shag carpet to the offwhite spackled ceiling.
She sits on the bed. She is of average height for a woman, 64 inches tall. Her brown hair is cut short, very short. She is slight, the kind of slightness that comes from potential fatal illnesses of psychological origin. She stares. It unnerves people, drives them away. The only ones who don't notice are the ex-psychiatric patients who live in her house and her street. She is the only person who is not living there because she has no other choice.
No-one is upset now by her staring, because she is alone and staring at the television. It is tuned to the local CBC affiliate. The National has just finished, and now there will be a documentary. She is going to watch the documentary. On her table is the receipt from the counselling centre, where she went when she discovered that the documentary was going to be shown uncut.
The credits come on, indicating that the film had been produced by Film Four International, Canal Plus, RAI, ZdF, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It is a film about the United States of America.
[Caption: Salem Centre, NY, April 1, 1998]
[Shot of multiple cop cars at night, lights flashing. Shot of a line of small, filthy, wildly staring children being led from a large, dilapidated mansion. Shot of a balding, emaciated man with bandaged eyes being led from the house in handcuffs. Shot of four heavily pregnant women being led away in handcuffs. Two are oriental, two are not.]
[Caption: Henry Vanderbylt, President, New Salem Investments, Rye NY]
[Shot of a middle-aged man in a good suit in a comfortable room. He has a neatly trimmed vandyke beard. He is clearly rather well-to-do.]
HV: I sold the house to the man who called himself Xavier in the spring of '68. I don't know where he came from. He had money, he paid in cash. Said he wanted to set up a school. The house was perfect for that. The Jesuits had had it for 30 years after it had been built by that man who used to own all the smoked meat shops. Italian, I think he was. At any rate, the house was perfect for a school. After he moved in, I heard he was telling people that he was from one of the older families in the area. Lies, all lies. Old money here dates back to the Dutch settlers from 400 years ago. That man showed up off a boat from somewhere. Tangiers, I heard.
[Shot of a 70-ish woman dressed as if it were still 1948. This is clearly not an affectation, but rather a willful act of rejection of every development in fashion since McArthur marched through Pyongyang.]
[Caption: Elisabeth Grundy, Westchester County School Board (ret.), White Plains NY]
EG: He started with five students, and I found that somewhat unusual. Private schools generally had larger classes than that. I was also surprised to see that there were no other instructors, at least not at first.
Int: But he had other teachers later?
EG: I do recall meeting some, yes. A physical education teacher by the name of Logan comes to mind. We had records of others.
Int: Did you inspect the School?
EG: Personally, only once. It seemed a respectable and well-equipped establishment. I recall that they had the most marvelous pate at the lunch that they served.
Int: Did you meet any of the students?
EG: I suppose that I met the original five. I understood that they'd had problems in other schools, although none of them looked in any way unusual except for the boy with the big feet and hands.
Int: Henry McCoy?
EG: Yes, Henry. He did quite well at Princeton, I understand. The others didn't seem to thrive. There was that shy boy, Scott Summers, and the wisecracking boy, Robert Drake, I believe. There was also Warren Worthington, whose father had financed the school. There was only one girl, that poor Jean Grey. I had no idea what abilities they might have had.
Int: Why was the license granted to a man with no teaching credentials?
EG: It wasn't as if we had any choice. With the power he possessed, he might have made us do anything.
[Shot of a balding, deeply tanned man in a short sleeve, thoroughly pressed shirt]
[Caption: Lieutenant Binyamin Kupermann (MP, Ret.), Haifa, Israel]
BK: A teacher? When he was here, he said he was a psychiatrist. No-one questioned it at the time, he was so good with the catatonic patients. Too damn good.
Int: How long was he at the Institute?
BK: Eight months, until Professor Lehnsherr uncovered him.
Int: This was the Haller case?
Int: Were you ever able to establish where he'd come from?
BK: The Professor traced him back to Tangiers but before that, nothing.
[Shot of a couple in a very expensive and very Central European hotel suite. The man is handsome, with snow white hair and features that might be called noble. His wife, in her 60s, has jet black hair. Together, they might pass for a couple immortalized in a mosaic on the walls of Pompeii, or perhaps Leptis Magna.]
[Caption: Professors Erich and Gabrielle Lehnsherr, Vienna, Austria]
EL: You are certain that you are able to go through with this?
GL: I'm not a flower, Erich.
EL: I didn't mean to suggest-
GL: They aren't here to watch us argue. Yes, I knew Charles Xavier.
Int: Where did you meet him?
GL: At the Institute in Haifa, only he was calling himself Charles Marko then. Doctor Charles Marko.
Int: This was where he brought you out of your coma?
GL: Yes. But I'm sure now that we met earlier, or at least that he saw me in Tangiers.
Int: That was where you went into the coma.
GL: Yes. Collapsed in the street. Woke up in Haifa.
Int: Under the care of Charles Xavier.
Int: And you, Professor Lehnsherr, you were her physician?
EL: What have they been saying about me? No, no, I was an orderly.
GL: Erich was badly hurt during the war.
EL: What she means is that I was written off as a terminal headcase.
GL: He was in-
EL: Uh, uh. None of that. They don't need to hear of that.
GL: I am sorry. Erich could not hold a conversation when I first saw him.
EL: This was true. I had no words.
GL: Until you saw-
EL: Until I saw what he was doing to you.
[Shot: Binyamin Kupermann]
BK: Rape. No doubt about it. Practically necrophilic rape if he started when we think he did. Cocky bastard thought Lehnsherr was a vegetable, just like everyone else did.
[Shot: The Lehnsherrs]
EL: He thought I was a vegetable, fit only for emptying bedpans. Watching him awoke something deep within me. Not only my soul, but also my mind. I knew that he was doing something unusual, something I would have to guard against.
Int: No one suspected that he was a psi?
EL: Not then, no. I played dumb until I could read again. It was terrible, but I knew I had no other choice. It was pure luck that he assumed that I was still vegetative. When I could read, I researched his background and found no records about his background in the hospital files or anywhere that he claimed to have been. I made a file of evidence and took it to the hospital administrator. He summoned Xavier and they had a meeting. I went to see the administrator later and he tried to fire me. Xavier was there, working the man like a puppet, but he couldn't work me. He told me he would kill me. I think he tried to do something, but he failed. He took out a pistol and tried to shoot me. It was then that I discovered that I had a special ability as well.
Int: With magnetism.
EL: Oh yes. No control, however. The bullet wounded the administrator. Xavier ran away in the confusion.
EL: Too much?
GL: I think.
EL: Georg! Georg! Where is that blasted man?
GL: Probably preening himself in front of a mirror again.
GH: Mein herr?
[Caption: Georg Haider, chauffeur to the Lehnsherrs]
EL: Could you please take my wife back to the villa?
GH: Jawohl, Herr Doktor-Professor!
EL: Now where were we?
Int: The administrator had just been shot.
EL: Ah, yes. Well, there was quite a scandal, but Binyamin got to the bottom of it very quickly. Even so, Xavier escaped without a trace.
Int: And after that, you married Frau Professor Haller?
EL: I fell for her, quite hard. I could not help myself. So young, pregnant, so alone. We raised her son as our own.
Int: David Lehnsherr.
[Shot of Kupermann]
BK: It's a phoenix story, I tell you, rising right out of the ashes. We had all the hospital staff saying, Don't listen, he's a vegetable, and this so-called vegetable is giving me a perfectly documented file of evidence showing how Xavier had fooled everyone. If he hadn't gotten all political about the Arabs, he'd probably still be here. They made him live in a neutral country, because the superpowers were terrified of him. He told me he went to Austria because Switzerland was too boring.
[Clip of EL raising a crippled Russian submarine from the sea floor.]
[Clip of EL looking on as Ho Chi Minh and Lyndon Johnson shake hands in Saigon in 1965.]
[Clip of EL welcoming Nelson Mandela in his cabinet office in the Hofburg, Vienna in 1966.]
[Clip of EL with Jean-Luc Godard, Jack Lang, and the Prime Minister of the Cayman Islands, having just witnessed the signing of the General Agreement on Taxation and Traditional Culture Preservation.]
[Clip of GL at the UNHCR branch office in Dover, welcoming the first of 50,000 Czech and Slovak gypsy families to be settled in Britain.]
[Clip of EL and Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev as EL puts old Soviet-era submarine reactor cores into a cometary orbit around the sun.]
[Shot of Erich Lehnsherr.]
Int: So you don't regret living in Hitler's birthplace?
EL: He had to be born somewhere, and it wasn't in Wien. Brunau, I believe it was, somewhere in the hills. Austria is a civilized country now, and I do my small part to keep it that way. It is certainly more civil than some societies I could name.
[Shot of dilapidated house in Westchester at night. Body bags are being brought out by ambulance attendants.]
A commercial comes on. It is for food. The food is steaming hot, flowing with rich, savory juices. She goes to the cupboard. She takes out two large bags of chips, a gaint-sized bag of chocolate chip cookies, a loaf of white bread, and a jar of peanut butter. She goes to the fridge and takes out a one-quart container of sour cream and onion chip dip. She seems pensive, looking at it all, as if somehow it isn't going to be enough.