Jacob Lawrence, "Picket Line" (1948)
Jacob Lawrence, Picket Line (1948)
Can a Game Be Literature?

Mark's Pages

December 30, 2002:

Mary Ann respected work. All her life she believed that hard work and initiative and community were the qualities that made people Americans. Her decision was not made lightly. She stood on a table at the center of the clearing, holding aloft a handwritten sign reading, "Union!"

The High Prophet entered the clearing, read her sign, screamed, and fainted dead-away.

The scream brought people running from all directions. The Howells were the first to arrive. "T-Thurston!," cried Mrs. Howell. "What's that she's written?" "Help! Help!," cried Mr. Howell. "Outside agitators!," he shouted. "Conspiracy! B-B-B-Bolsheviks!" Turning their backs they fled headlong toward the bar.

Two Secret Service men were next. Eyeing the sign they gasped, spun around twice in opposite directions, and joined the High Prophet unconscious on the ground.

Poppy came jogging. Spying the sign he stopped dead in his tracks, as if bewildered. Then he said, "Read my lips," and stuck out his tongue.

Potty Mouth arrived with Tony, his English butler. "Shit," said the President. As he had done on that terrible day, 9-1-1, he stood frozen, facing crisis without the carefully tailored script his handlers ordinarily prepared for him. His effete East Coast features reflected for a few moments their true and natural state: fear. "W-we've, uh, we've got to do something about those, uh, those folks there," he said.

"Veddy good sah!," saluted Tony, "I'll disarm her sah!" Two steps later he lay sprawled on top of the growing heap of bodies.

The Old Ex-President's Wife walked patiently into the clearing. Seeing the sign she recoiled, as if striking her head on an invisible field of impenetrable force. As the gathering grew she began methodically circling Mary Ann, hands in the air like a mime feeling an imaginary wall for an opening.

Gilligan came running, concern written on his honest face. "What's happening, Mary Ann?," he asked. Then, "What's a 'Union'?" Mary Ann answered succinctly. "That's you and me refusing to be pushed around anymore." "Oh," said Gilligan, matter-of-factly. "Cool." He walked past the Old Ex-President's Wife and joined Mary Ann on the table. The Old Ex-President's Wife looked startled for a moment, then returned to her methodical miming. It seemed to Mary Ann that she was all arms and legs, pressing her spindly insect limbs against an imaginary wall.

The clearing was jammed. Half of the newcomers stood in a crowd, agitated, a few feet from the table on which Mary Ann stood with Gilligan. The other half were piled in a heap, passed-out on top of the High Prophet. There were shouts, and moans, and lamentations, and a sound like Babel.

For a moment Mary Ann lowered her sign, so that it pointed to the ground. The crowd of newcomers fell forward as if a wall had been removed, landing on each other like Keystone Cops. They stood and tensed, ready to spring. Mary Ann raised the sign, and they snapped back, as if lashed by a whip.

The President's War Cabinet assembled to seek a solution to the crisis. "Will the plane fly?," asked the President. "Shouldn't I hide there, like, ah, like last time?"

"Horsehocky!," fumed Rummy, without nonsense. "The best defense is a good offense." Striding manfully toward Mary Ann he showed determination and resolve. Mary Ann pointed her sign directly into his face. His knees wobbled, buckled, and he fell to the ground, shaking. "Take it away!," he blubbered, whimpering, pressing his face to the unforgiving earth. "Take it away!"

Turd Blossom huddled with the Old Ex-President's Wife. "Fools!," she shouted. "Put bags over your idiot heads!"

Turd Blossom snapped orders, pointing. With eyes tight shut a party of Secret Service men groped toward the table like blind Frankensteins, arms stiffly forward. Mary Ann and Gilligan were captured by Braille. The sign was destroyed. Turd Blossom declared them "terrorists," which was, after all, entirely appropriate to the effect they'd had. The President signed an Executive Order declaring them enemy combatants, allowing them to be held indefinitely and without counsel. Mary Ann and Gilligan were cuffed and led away. Amid universal relief the newcomers retreated to the golf course bar, shaken but uninjured.