The Howl

My military stint in D.C. bordered on Twilight
Zone lunacy.
Federal agents shadowed me. There were 3rd
degree interrogations by the C.I.A. as well
as background checks, psychological tests,
interviews with the Pentagon’s assorted
military brass.
I was just a draftee. They wanted to train
me for a job that required a Top Secret
security clearance, absolute loyalty, and at
least a year of specialized and complex
studying.
Better than ‘Nam & getting shot or
bombed. I was against their war. I resented
being a prisoner. It was that or jail. D.I.A
was better than sitting in a cell.
I lived off post in a downtown D.C. flop
not far from the White House.
I couldn’t live on post with all that
spit and polish.
It was a sleezy cluster of backstreet dives
and dumps, by the Greyhound station,
filled with cheap rooms, pawnshops,
seedy bars, strip joints, porno book
stores, winos, druggies, muggers, pimps
and whores.
On army pay it was all I could afford.
Below the Mason, Dixon line it often
was too hot to sleep. I sat one night on my
tenement rooftop smoking cigarettes, sipping
Jack hoping I would crash. I had to get up
early, catch a bus to my post, change into
my class A uniform at the barracks, report
for duty, study photo images shot from space,
try to decipher what they meant in the scheme
of things.
Suddenly military choppers filled the air.
You couldn’t do this in Chicago, the buildings
are too tall.
They swept the midnight streets with their
spotlights.
They circled, crisscrossed, went back and forth.
Below them was a swarm of cops, chasing
through the deserted blocks.
Five floors below and two blocks down, I
spotted the Running Man – that’s how
I always thought of the guy I saw futilely
fleeing for his life – arms pumping, head
thrown back, chasing back and forth like
a rat in a trap. He was a husky man, athletically
built, dressed in a gray, three-piece suit.
Was he a saboteur? A spy maybe?
An informer perhaps? He didn’t rob a
Seven/Eleven to create all that
commotion.
I wanted him to get away, drop down a
sewer, disappear behind a secret door.
I wanted him to do a vanishing act. He was
running hard, but he was running out of gas.
Was I rooting for the underdog? – Maybe,
but we are all Running Men aren’t we?
Running for our lives, running from our lives,
running from the Man, running from death,
which will get us in the end.
Suddenly the choppers flew away.
The cops went away.
There was nothing about the Running
Man in the news the next day.

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