Cage Match: Election Probe


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I’m a city person. I love nature, love being out on the ocean, in the mountains, what have you, but it’s not a seamless fit. I have certain involuntary associations with the outdoors that sometimes just ruin everything.


Take what happened to me the other day, for instance. I’m driving back to New York after two weeks in Buffalo. It’s late at night. I have to take a leak, so I pull over. Turns out that the road I’m on is lined by a cornfield–I hadn’t seen it while driving. I’m curious, so I walk right up to the corn stalks to check them out. Interesting. I’ve got nothing against corn, of course, in fact it’s kind of neat to be in a field of it–it’s a cool-looking plant. The only thing is, when I see a cornfield, my first thought isn’t "food." The thing that really comes to mind first is…


WOOOSH! Suddenly I’m flooded with a painfully bright light, and there’s wind rushing everywhere, bending and twisting the corn stalks until they fly in all directions. Then I hear this weird sound, kind of like a xylophone. It’s nightmarish, like a Philip Glass score, these terrible staccato scales. It’s coming from above. I look up. Two giant red eyes, like an electric tarantula, are bearing down on me from the sky. It is–yes, I see it now, it’s a craft of ungodly size, hissing and blotting out the night sky. A kind of trap door opens, and suddenly I feel a pinch at the base of my neck, and everything goes black…


Awake. I have no idea how much time has passed. It might be weeks, it might be years. It might be ten minutes. Lying on my stomach in a dark, membrane-covered chamber, I quickly become aware of a sharp pain. I arch my back and turn around. There is a nine-foot spike with lights and whistles, six inches wide, rammed up my ass. I can make out a digital readout in some alien language at the exposed end.


"It’s…a probe," I hear a voice whisper.


I whip my head around. There, right in front of me, is another adult human being, flat on his stomach, stuck in exactly the same predicament.


"Holy shit," I say. "Aren’t you–aren’t you Governor Howard Dean?"


He nods. "Don’t worry," he whispers, smiling. "We’re going to win this one."


I wince in pain and stare back at him. "Win what one?" I ask. "What the hell do you mean?"


He nods and gives me a little thumbs-up sign. "This election is about change," he says, winking. Then, inflating his throat-sac like an American toad, he bellows out: "We’re going to take back America!"


I shake my head, stunned. "Election? America?" I cry, wincing and terrified. "Governor, we’re hurtling through the cosmos, impaled on nine-foot spikes!"


Suddenly, a different voice hisses from across the room.


"Actually," it says, "they’re only eight-and-a-half feet long."


I smack my forehead in shock. "Wow," I say. "John Kerry. You were my senator when I was growing up. What are you doing here?"


Kerry smiles. Laid out on his stomach, head resting on folded hands and body glistening with sweat, he looks tanned and vital, for all the world like a man relaxing on the upper deck of a sauna. Only the giant illuminated spike up his ass ruins the picture.


"Gauloises?" he says, lighting up.


"No, thanks," I say. "I’m trying to quit. But senator," I said, "what–"


"Relaxing," he says. "Waiting, Matt. I’m waiting."


"Waiting for what?"


He exhales, shakes his head, smiles. "Just…waiting," he says mischievously.


"But," I say, "how can you wait in a situation like this?"


He smiles again. "It’s not so bad," he says. "The thing you have to understand, Matt, is that I’ve been an honored member of the U.S. Senate for 19 years. So a situation like this is, frankly, not all that uncomfortable. I don’t even feel the pain, in fact. And besides, I’m really right where I want to be."


I’m close to passing out by now, and barely listening to him. "Oh, God," I whisper. "Help me."


"Seriously," Kerry continues, ignoring me. "You have no idea. All that time I was in Vietnam, this was the dream that kept me going…"


"D-d-dream?"


"Exactly," he says. "When I was out there in the jungle–in the shit, if you will–I just kept telling myself, as the bullets passed overhead: ‘Someday, years from now, I’m going to be flying through space, with a giant pole up my ass, 17 months from the presidency.’"


Now I’m panicking. My head starts twisting around in all directions, searching for a way out.


"Kucinich was in here before," Kerry goes on, chuckling. "It was wild. They went to shove the probe in him, and his skin just dissolved, and all these candy circus peanuts fell out all over the floor. Then his weird dyed hair sprouted legs and tried to run away. They lanced it and put it in a cage. You should have heard the way it screeched."


He laughs, shakes his head. "I always thought there was something weird about that guy."


Agony. I can’t bear it any longer. There. In the corner. It looks like a door. If I can just gather my strength, I feel like I might be able to pry loose. Just concentrate and keep pulling. I can make it there…


Just then four hideous ethereal beings with dripping fangs float through the door, their eyes shooting acid that burns holes in the floor. They are trailed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who’s carrying a notebook and a pencil.


"Blurk gonk jicker wonka fleek-sssssssss ifft!" he says, reading. "I… will…meet…you…and…your…attorney…on…Monday." He lifts his head. "Hey, what’s the word for ‘subsidiary’?"


"Plot-gurflackle!" one of the creatures says.


"Plot-gurflackle," he nods, writing in his pad. "I like that." He turns to us. "You all ought to learn your lesson," he says. "The American people don’t want any more of this…"–he waves his hand back and forth to indicate our supine bodies–"unpleasantness. The American people want security. They want unity. They want strong leadership. And I’m here to provide it."


I’m trying to focus on his face, but all I can see is his smirk and that weird bob of gray hair. I summon my strength for one last stand. "What’s the matter, senator?" I whisper. "They didn’t give you…a big enough spike?"


Lieberman thrusts his finger in my direction. "V rot yemu!" he shouts. "Brei yemu ushi! Buistrenko!"


The monsters rush toward me. A huge NFL-football-shaped orb is thrust in my mouth; weird bloody tongs appear at the ends of their appendages and they’re plunged into my ear canals. Bright white light, shooting pain, a sucking sound, Lieberman chortling, and then, suddenly–stillness, black and nothing.


Dawn. I awake face down in the cornfield, about 900 yards from my car. My shirt is pulled up around my head, and my pants are on backwards. There are no visible signs of injuries from the previous evening (evenings?), although my ears, for some reason, are clogged with blue slime. I get up, dust off and get back on the road.


Election, 2004. I can hardly wait.


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