A Mightier Penn (53)

This is not a standalone blog entry or short story, as such, I’d recommend beginning at the beginning: A Mightier Penn (1)

Holly watched from the weathered rocking chair on her front porch as Penn parked on the street before her Dilworth bungalow. As though he were climbing from the pages of a men’s clothing catalogue in his smart flat front khaki pants and untucked button down shirt, he hopped from his Jeep.

Holly rose from the chair to meet him midway.

“I was coming to the door, like prom night,” said Penn as he neared.

Holly smiled. “I thought I’d save you the trip.”

“This is a fantastic place, great street,” said Penn glancing about. “And more importantly, and before I forget, you look really good.”

“Sweet,” said Holly, who was in a pair of jeans and a suede jacket, her brilliant red hair pulled up. “So, the house looks fantastic, the street is great, and I’m really good?”

“I mean, you look better than good,” stammered Penn. “Poor word choice, but you get the idea, I hope.”

Penn guided her to the passenger side where he offered her a hand up to her seat.

“Very proper,” commented Holly on his manners, “And may I say, before I forget, this Jeep is really good.” Her eyes twinkled at her word choice. “I’m just playing, but I really do like it.”

“Thank you,” replied Penn returning to his side. “And getting away from appearance and adjectives, I trust you’re hungry?”

“Starved.”

Penn cranked the engine to life. In the warm spring air, with the Jeep’s top down, they headed to the restaurant, a colorfully decorated but dimly lit tapas on the other side of town.

Guided by a hostess, Penn and Holly waded through the narrow, jazz-infused eatery to a corner table, where they situated themselves and placed initial orders for drinks. The couple followed standard introductory date blueprint and briefly reviewed their respective pasts as they ate.

Holly felt herself being drawn in. She gazed across the table with impressed eyes. In addition to being handsome, his side of the conversation was thoughtful, quick-witted, with a sharp sense of humor. And most refreshingly of all, he was unlike the men she typically found herself with, which added his attractiveness and appeal.

The two worked their way around a small plate of prosciutto-wrapped dates while further exhausting the small talk.

“Did you see the energy building you were protesting was attacked?”, asked Penn in a lull within the conversation.

Holly wiped her lips with her napkin. “You mean, we were protesting,” she pointed out with a smile. “I didn’t get all the details, but from what I heard the building was basically smoke bombed.”

“Yeah, that’s what it sounded like.”

Holly grimaced, more unimpressed than revolted. “I’m guessing it was the same knuckleheads who were trading tear gas with the police during the protest. I guess they just switched the gas for smoke.”

“Hmm, that’s interesting,” said Penn. “I was expecting a little more enthusiasm from your end. I thought you would have been pleased.”

“Why would I be pleased?”

“Well, from what you said at the coffee shop, a disruption like that could cripple their operations and cost them serious money.”

“Sure, it may disrupt them for a day or two; and yes, it may cost the company some money, but attacking a building with smoke hardly solves the problem.”

As she spoke, the waiter appeared and replaced the exhausted plates with fresh dishes of pomegranate-braised lamb rolls and encrusted shrimp.

Penn waited for the waiter to depart before he continued. “Fair enough, but at minimum it’s a start.”

Holly was studying the new additions to the table and spoke without looking up. “No, not really.” She snared a shrimp with her fork and took a bite. “Wow, this is really good,” she said of the food before returning to Penn’s point. “Unfortunately, a couple smoke bombs will not stop Knight from continuing their expansion and it will not stop them from mountain-topping for coal. If anything,” she said as she picked another shrimp, this time with her fingers, “they gain political clout and sympathy from the moderates as the victim of an attack.”

In silence, he digested her point of view and a shrimp.

“Now, don’t get me wrong,” Holly said, “I’m all for action when it tackles the problem head-on. But monkey-wrenching for the sake of monkey-wrenching is usually misguided. Pure anarchy, ecotage, and black bloc tactics are good for headlines but ineffective in bringing about sustainable change.”

“What’s black bloc?”

“You know, the folks on the news. The hooligans wearing the black shirts, pants, masks protesting the WTO, globalization, and the establishment. They’re the ones slugging it out with the police, rioting, vandalizing, and getting arrested.”

“Here’s a question, why do they always wear black?”

“You need to brush up on your activist fashion. Black is the universal color for anarchists from Berlin to Boston.”

“I have a black suit,” joked Penn.

“Oh, I know you have a suite, you wore it to the protest,” teased Holly. “But again, everyone and everything has its place, and those guys up front are great for illuminating a particular problem, but you can’t stop a freight train by putting a couple nails on the tracks.”

“True, but you can stop a train by blowing up the tracks,” said Penn as an aside.

The destructive remark struck Holly as off color. “Admittedly grassroots efforts can be slow, sometimes frustratingly so, but eventually they work. Protests, petitions, letters, editorials, e-mails, and voting shapes the long-term course. In my oh-so- humble opinion, real change, lasting change comes from the inside out. If you want to change the world, you begin with yourself and work your way up and out.”

“That could take a lifetime.”

“True, but it in most cases it took a lifetime – if not several lifetimes – to get into these situations. Fossil fuel dependence, pollution, endangered species did not just come about overnight, and they will take time to thoroughly address and really fix. It took a long time to walk into the woods, and it will take a long time to walk out.”

To begin at the beginning, click here… A Mightier Penn (1)

A Mightier Penn (52)

This is not a standalone blog entry or short story, as such, I’d recommend beginning at the beginning: A Mightier Penn (1)

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

As hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage was inflicted miles away, Penn stared sleeplessly at the ceiling of his room. Unbeknownst to him, he lifted his head from the pillow at the same moment the man driving the courtesy vehicle lifted his head from the powdery airbag. Both were unscathed. Aside from a moderate case of whiplash, the seat-belted driver walked away uninjured, as did the employees in and around the potentially lethal havoc. All were exceptionally lucky.

Penn had failed to consider the human element while laying his line, and did not consider it while in bed. The thoughts of casualties, repercussions, and fallout never crossed his mind. He focused on more pressing matters – sleep, and rolled onto his stomach where tried to squeeze a few minutes from the morning, but the slumber proved frustratingly elusive. Resigned to restlessness, he capitulated and rose. The apartment was quiet, the houseguests having left earlier. Penn aimlessly milled about for a few minutes before deciding to go out for some coffee.

On the serpentine drive from the Chestnut Ridge, the shirtless torso of the Colonel, holding court at the communal pool blinded and amused Penn, and he pulled alongside the pool’s fence and hopped from the Jeep.

The weather was unseasonably warm, borderline hot, and had the pool been open for business, the sun-filled spring morning and temperate temperature would have netted a healthy number of devout sun worshippers and layabouts. But the pool was closed, the cover stretched and secured over the waterless hole. The majority of furniture still was in storage, or stacked in the far corner. It was from that stack that the Colonel requisitioned a patio table and chairs.

He stood bare-barrel-chested, clad only in desert camouflage pants rolled to his knees, weaving an exaggerated yarn for his audience. When Penn entered, he interrupted his story. “Look what the cat dragged in.” The Colonel reached into the open case of beer for a loaded can and lobbed the twelve ounces to the newcomer when Penn was near. “Got your name on it.”

Penn caught the shovel pass and smiled to himself at the comment. Pulling a chair towards him, he took a seat and cracked the warmish beer. “You guys look like you’re on vacation.”

The Colonel, standing above several empties and powering through the can in his hand, commented. “Man, we’re always on vacation.”

“Penn, this set-up is going to make it awfully hard for me to hit the road,” said Bob with a gesture to the pool area.

“Yes, thank you for all this,” added Bayer. “And, before I forget, someone from property management came by asking a few questions – apparently, we don’t look as though we live here, or anywhere for that matter.”

“Yeah, they were kind of rude,” commented Bob in a sensitive tone.

“We told ‘em to blow it out their ass and get the hell out of our sun,” said the Colonel.

“No, we didn’t,” clarified Bayer. “We told them we were guests of yours, that we knew you from college, and were leaving in a day or so. I hope you’re O.K. with that. We didn’t want to cause any problems.”

“You’re not causing me any problems.” Penn took a sip from his beer. “The only thing I take issue with is the whole ‘day or so’. You guys are more than welcome to stay as long as you see fit. As long as I have a home, you have a home.”

“Su casa es mi casa,” said the Colonel.

“Speaking of our mutual abode, I was thinking spaghetti and salad for dinner.”

“Any vino with that?”

“Sure, I’ll pick some wine up.”

“Penn, we can’t take all this,” Bob said.

“He’s right,” said Bayer. “Everything you’ve done, everything you’re doing – I’m afraid I don’t know how we’ll ever be able to thank you.”

Penn took the thanks to heart. “Trust me, you guys are helping me more than I’m helping you.”

“That’s what I was saying, that’s shit I’m talking about,” the Colonel said. “What goes around comes around.”

Bob and Bayer shook their heads.

Penn smiled. “Anyways, tonight, I’ll pick dinner up at the store and leave it out on the counter – I trust that at least one of you knows how to boil water and cook noodles.”

“Where will you be?” asked Bob.

“I’m heading out for the evening.”

“Where to?” pried the Colonel.

“I’ve got a date.”

The fellows responded with a giggling chorus of junior high catcalls until the ringing of Penn’s cell phone interrupted their ribbing.

“Not so fast,” chuckled the Colonel, “looks like she might be coming to her senses and having second thoughts.”

Looking down at the unknown number, Penn answered it with a guarded “This is Penn” before listening intently. The others around the table remained courteously quiet and watched Penn’s face reflect the one-sided conversation as it unfolded. Penn’s expression dimmed. After a minute, he broke his silence. “And there is nothing that can be done?” he asked in frustration. “I don’t know. I’ll let you know.” The call ended, but Penn’s stern expression did not.

“That didn’t sound like a date,” said Bob.

“It wasn’t.”

“Everything alright?” asked Bayer

“Nope.”

The monosyllabic reply was surprisingly sufficient and none of the three followed up with additional questions.

After a moment, Penn clarified. “That was the mortgage guy at the bank. They’re trying to pull my loan on the condo.”

“Why?”

“Evidently, without a job, I no longer qualify for the mortgage.”

“Then go get a job,” said Bob. “You’re qualified for something out there.”

“Unfortunately with their timeline, it’s not that easy.”

“Well, big fucking deal,” simplified the Colonel. “The other night you sounded like you didn’t even want the joint. I say, rip up the papers and walk away. No harm, no foul. Move on.” He punctuated his recommendation with the crushing of an empty beer can.

“If I walk away from the contract, I’ll lose my deposit.”

“How much?” Asked Bayer.

“Seven grand, give or take.”

“Shit,” uttered the Colonel. “That ain’t chump change.”

“You’re right about that.”

Click to keep reading… A Mightier Penn (53)

To begin at the beginning, click here… A Mightier Penn (1)

A Mightier Penn (51)

This is not a standalone blog entry or short story, as such, I’d recommend beginning at the beginning: A Mightier Penn (1)

The attack lasted three seconds. When the glass, metal, plastic and dust settled the dealership looked as though a tornado laden with IEDs had swept through the lot.

The morning had unfolded like most every other, with the opening hours marked by salesmen piddling around the showroom floor drinking coffee, managers shuffling financing papers in generic offices, and grease monkeys beginning to poke and prod cars they themselves would never own.

Just past eight, a former customer exchanged his civilian assault vehicle slated for service for one of the dealership’s courtesy vehicles. The borrowable SUV was backed into its assigned parking spot, and after the man acquainted himself with the on-the-run model, he dropped it into gear and headed for the exit.

At the main road, a sizable multilane thoroughfare, the man came to a stop, failing to notice the metal tail unspooling in his wake. With little regard, he leaned into the gas pedal and roared from the lot, hanging a right, merging into the racing traffic.

A roaming salesman caught a glimpse of the trailing cable jiggling on the pavement. Seeing the loaner zooming away and seeing the cable, he yelled for the driver to stop right as the spool ran its course.

Transformed from malleable to rigid, the cable swept the dealership like a reaping sickle and unleashed a frightening wave of destruction. The lofty letters on the roof were ripped from the building and crashed to the pavement below with great effect – plastic, glass and metal shrapnel bursting into the air.

Next to go were the undersides of the SUVs – gutted. Their innards, some of which was still affixed to the cable, were pulled from the undercarriages and into the sunlight. The wire sliced across the lot without impunity, topping a half dozen salable cars along the way, as the cable straightened from the courtesy vehicle to the anchor SUV, which was yanked sideways by three feet until the cable snapped under the tremendous pressure.

Click to keep reading… A Mightier Penn (52)

To begin at the beginning, click here… A Mightier Penn (1)

A Mightier Penn (50)

This is not a standalone blog entry or short story, as such, I’d recommend beginning at the beginning: A Mightier Penn (1)

After seventeen vehicles, he reached the end of the line of cars as well as the end of the second coil of cable. The last SUV, a white whale, was serendipitously situated near the front door of the standalone dealership. Penn redeployed his hat and cautiously poked his head above the waterline to locate the proximate security cameras and find the subset of loaner cars. Both were difficult to spot, unlike the massive neon block letters atop the dealership.

At inception, the plan had him staying below the radar, working towards the first loaner car, the locomotive to his train. But that was before he beheld the glowing red beacons radiating above. The marquee was a siren of seduction; the words reaching down like the hand of a fallen angel and guiding him in her heavenly direction. Penn considered the unoriginality of the monkeyshine when compared to his earlier gutter shenanigans, and although he hated to plagiarize from his own playbook, the draw was overwhelming.

He returned to his low-lying hollow and connected the third cable to the existing string. Penn then seized the remaining coils of line and his bag, and crawled from the truck. Hunched like a primate, in a low crouch with knuckles almost dragging, he forcefully tucked the towed cable into the seam where the concrete sidewalk met the paved parking lot and edged his way to the building.

Penn was giddy with excitement at the prospects, but the enthusiasm was accompanied by hapless inattentiveness. In his bid to tackle the building’s summit, he ignored the cameras for a split second, and when he arrived at the side of the building he found himself standing in plain view of an unnoticed lens. A soft-spoken expletive crept from his lips.

Knowing he was now starring in his own film, he immediately weighed both his options and resolve.

His course of action was unchanged.

He hustled from the camera’s view and sidestepped to a column of spiraled industrial lattice connecting the overhanging roof with the ground. He peeled off enough slack cable to account for the climb, shouldered the remaining coil of line and his bag, and looked up at the imposing, but manageable, helix ladder. He took a breath and climbed to the roof, where he gingerly tiptoed to the large letters of the dealership’s title. He ran the line through and around each individual letter, like an industrial charm necklace.

The spring night was cool, calm, and peaceful. Standing on the far side of the roof, Penn looked out over the lights of the surrounding roads, businesses, and nearby homes. Thirty feet removed, the world looked still until a pair of slow moving headlights belonging to a white pickup truck appeared on the road fronting the dealership.

Penn inched behind the last large letter and peered down at the truck’s rooftop lights and authoritative magnetic badges on the hood and doors. Penn could feel his heart rate tick up.

Had the cameras given him up that quickly? The short answer was “yes”. The surveillance’s cameras had captured an unknown man loitering around the dealership, but the glimpse of Penn gave the watchful eyes at the remote bank of screens little reason to be overly alarmed. On film, Penn resembled a passing vagrant and there was no reason to believe that he had touched any of vehicles, climbed on the roof, or was in the process of committing wholesale vandalism. But per company protocol, an officer had been dispatched to investigate.

Penn coaxed the vehicle along with muted words of encouragement that appeared to work until the lurking truck came to a stop in the dealership’s stout entrance.

“Shit.”

A multimillion candlepower spotlight was unleashed from the driver side window. The column of light swept the seemingly dormant acres with several illuminating passes. The coast appeared to be clear, and the guard could have assumed as much, but unfortunately for Penn, the uniformed man’s professional pride was not based on assumptions. The guard extinguished the blinding torch and stepped from the truck. With union-approved steel-toed boots on the ground, he reached across the driver’s seat and snatched a twenty-inch black metal flashlight from the passenger seat. Packing his baton of a flashlight, a holstered Taser, a radio, and a couple weeks of formal training, he took to the lot.

From his crow’s nest, Penn watched as the officer walked the rows of cars, flashlight beam prying between and beneath the inventory, before turning his attention to the building on which Penn was perched. The guard checked the locks, windows, and canvassed area where the person of interest had been recorded. He even took stock of the line running up alongside the column to the roof, and although he cursorily eyed the cable, he failed to think anything of it. With a self-assured nod, he killed the flashlight and walked back to his truck, turned off his rooftop lights, and continued on his way.

Penn, savoring the incremental excitement, smiled and dropped the remaining coil off the far side of the roof. The weighty wire fell with a thunderclap to the sidewalk. He carefully descended the makeshift ladder and mimicked the process from the opposite side of the building, this time conscious of avoiding the cameras as he concealed the metal cable that ran from the base of the column to the first loaner car.

Leaning against the rear bumper of the first car, Penn unpackaged, but did not uncoil the two unused cables and connected them to one another before connecting the lines to the hitch of the vehicle. Once hitched, he attached the wire coming from the roof to the cable coming off the car. The result was hundreds of feet of unyielding cable wrapped around seventeen cars’ undercarriages and six large letters tenuously located on the dealership’s marquee. The last length of line was spooled out of sight on the exhaust beneath the first courtesy vehicle.

With the table set, Penn vanished into the periphery and into the night.

Click to keep reading… A Mightier Penn (51)

To begin at the beginning, click here… A Mightier Penn (1)

Can’t sleep ’cause my bed’s on fire…

… Don’t touch me I’m a real live wire    – DB & Co.

What follows is drivel, neither substantive nor significant. A momentary departure from A Mightier Penn.

Anywho, so about last night… specifically the five hour arch that commenced with me going to bed around eleven in the PM and culminated in unconsciousness just before four AM.

Five hours.

Five tormented hours of unrequited sleep.

Five frantic hours stewing in a vat of restlessness, anxiousness, frustration, anger, angst and fear.

Five skin-crawling hours enduring pull-you-hair-out, punch-a-wall and wail Jimmy Legs.

Five lost hours counting sheep, counting breaths, counting minutes.

But five hours earlier, with earnest hopes of dreams, I retired to bed well before the Witching Hour. Situated beneath a single sheet, I ritualistically opened my bedside book and set to work. Typically I manage a solid five to seven pages before the hardback slips from my dozing hands to my dozing midsection and rouses me with a twitch. It’s at this point that I typically dog-ear the page, extinguish the light, call it night, and proceed to effortlessly cocoon myself in a quilt of sound slumber. But unfortunately for those involved, me, last night was atypical.

11PM – 12AM:      For the better part of an hour, I read, but my book never fell. Never seduced by the sirens of sleep, I remained wide awake, body unfazed by the pillow-top mattress, eyelids unweighted by the words before me, and a mind unwilling to unwind. At the hefty stroke of midnight, I put the book down and turned the light off. The gesture was a blantant attempt to strong-arm my subconscious into sleep, and sadly the coercion failed.

12 – 1230AM:      For thirty minutes, I flailed about like a trout in grass. On my side, on my stomach, on my back, above two pillows, beneath one pillow, covers on, covers half-on, covers off, arms at my sides, arms near head, hands sensiblly interlocked upon my stomach like that of a sleeping nun, feet curled up, feet sticking out… Round and round, I twirled until my fitted sheet became unglued.

1230 – 145AM:     Frustrated and shy a viable position, I rose from bed and shuffled to the bathroom where I drew a cup of water. Why? It was more reflexive than logical, as I’m unsure of the correlation between drinking water and falling asleep. But nevertheless, I wet my whistle, secured my sheet, and again saddled up with my book in hand. This time around I opted to read by flashlight – the thought at the time being less light should theoretically improve my odds of finding darkness. That hopeful thesis was disproved in minutes and replaced by a burgeoning sense of urgency and an insufferable restlessness that radiated from the backs of my knees and ran the length of my legs – FU Jimmy Legs.

Caving to the RLS itch, that bottled inexplicable sensation to sprint, I rolled from my bed and began to stretch my legs. As though in a junior high school gym, I reached for my toes and counted to ten. As necessary, I repeated the remedial stretch before taking my inflexibility to the floor, where my toes continued to reside well beyond reach.

Thinking I’d staved off the syndrome and symptoms, I got back into bed only to find that the limbering was entirely ineffective. The Jimmy Legs Lived! and plagued my physical being just as my mind descended into a downward spiral.

After ten minutes of wrestling with myself in bed, I headed for the door and down the stairs where I took up residence at the kitchen table, laptop splayed before me.

145 – 230AM:     In search of a cureI Googled Jimmy Legs, RLS, and Insomnia. The resulting remedies were neither inspiring nor instantaneous. Discouraged by the absence of anecdotes, I opted to reaffirm my self-diagnosis and take an online quiz designed to determine and quantify my level of anxiety. Turns out I’m ‘Moderately Anxious’ – although that known information did little to right the ship in the midst of the storm.

230AM:     Too late to chug a liter of NyQuil with the expectation that I’ll be coherent for work in five hours, depressed by my WebMD findings, and too lazy to commit to television, I drag my self up the stairs and back to my bed and book.

245 – 345AM:      I floor my book in disgust – it’s useless. I’m closer to dawn, but no closer to sleep, but without a book, I’m  orphaned with nothing more than my thoughts. Sleepless 330AM thoughts, not the company you want to keep, especially with the burden of a full of workday hanging over your head. It’s craziness, seasoned with insanity and served on a bed of impending doom with a side madness. Crazy begets crazy. And soon the thoughts begin to rifle through my melon like an infinite deck of cards being shuffled. Rapid, unrelenting, insidious. Once I’ve slipped into this rabbit hole, there is no climbing out. I can’t outsmart the crazy, can’t outrun the frantic tsunami, can’t ignore the cascading thoughts raining down.

345 – 355AM:      Set to blow in exactly two hours, my alarms glares at me with glowing blue digital eyes.

I fend off the urge to scream bloody murder into my pillow, scrape my eyes from my skull, and/or weep. Instead, I again pull the ripcord and head for the exit. Downstairs. No computer this time around, no research, no self-diagnoses, no pop quizzes. It’s just me and the couch in the dark living room. Seated upright, I agreed to mediate (or at least give it an honest, albeit delirious, try) for a whole ten minutes.

Eyes squeezed shut, I breathe. Breath. Breath. Breath. At minute eight, insanity begins to slip to the wayside, and by minute ten a sliver of serenity has returned.

With a deep inhale I stand and head for my tortuous bed – knowing that if I fail to find sleep, my next stop is an unscheduled unwanted jog before showering and heading into the office to punch the clock early.

4AM:     Curiously, I don’t recall falling asleep. I do; however, recollect precisely how I felt an hour and a half later when my alarm detonated in my ear.

I also know how I feel at this moment, at work (when I wrote this), fatigued, dark-welled eyes, dulled senses, exhausted spirit, typing gibberish and sincerely hoping for a good night’s sleep tonight… Réalisant mon espoir

 

 

By the way, feel free to join us on the A Mightier Penn express.

A Mightier Penn (49)

This is not a standalone blog entry or short story, as such, I’d recommend beginning at the beginning: A Mightier Penn (1)

Penn retired to his room for the evening. Although he was overly tired, he did not crawl into bed. Instead, he changed from his civilian clothes into black sweatpants and a matching hoodie emblazed with Colorado, his alma mater’s name.

Resembling a slovenly ninja, he provisioned a duffle with several winch cables that he had purchased from the automotive store he visited that afternoon, just after the SUV had almost run him off the road. Each of the super strength lines measured three hundred feet in length, weighed fifteen pounds, had a breaking strength of over twenty-five thousand pounds, and was capped with reinforced loops. Penn had purchased five of the weighty lines in addition to some s-hooks and automotive carabineers.

He took a seat on the edge of his bed where he cooled his heels while his roommates settled in for the night. When all was quiet, he topped his noir ensemble with what was becoming his lucky black fedora, shouldered the weighty bag and, sidestepping past the slumbering Colonel, slunk from the apartment.

In the wee hours of the morning, Penn drove down Independent Boulevard to the area dealership that specialized in suburban monster trucks. He parked inconspicuously a quarter of a mile away on a side street, and before setting out, reached under his seat, located the prosthetic beard and mustache he’d worn at the Knight Power and Light building and fixed them to his face, again topping off the guise with his felt hat.

The ire that Penn felt towards this subset of automobiles that bullied their way around the country was deeply rooted in annoyance. There is a time and place for everything, including large vehicles. A family of eight with a dozen dogs needs a car capable of carrying a village. Likewise, a rancher may need the power afforded by a super-diesel dually, and a man towing a boat or trailer needs the strength of a large vehicle for safety. Penn could live with these exceptions. His problem resided with the large SUVs purchased and driven simply for style. In his mind, nothing epitomized the country’s shortcomings better than the coveting of excessive civilian machines of war as a mode of transportation, especially in times of heady oil prices and Green initiatives.

What did it say about Penn and his fellow countryman? He heard the innate echoes of freedom of choice, individuality, and colorful bravado, but found himself overcome by the other side of the coin – an overwhelming aura of materialism, inconsideration for the environment and egomaniacal disregard for other motorists.

The fact that he drove an army Jeep with abysmal fuel efficiency and regrettable impact on the atmosphere was not lost on Penn. But, conveniently, he exempted himself. His Jeep was an off-road throwback that predated the populist sport utility vehicle boom by decades, and should therefore not be subject to the same stigmas that plagued his Jeep’s gargantuan offspring.

Clinging to the shadows afforded by an urban stand of forest, Penn backtracked from the Jeep to the dealership. He was fortunate that the target of his affection, like so many other car lots and dealerships, lacked an actual security guard roaming the premise and instead relied on an array of cameras, buildings secured by commercial alarms, a locked and alarmed inventory, and a low profile barrier fence designed to prevent vehicles from being lifted from the property.

He arched his way around the backside of the dealership and came to rest just inside the mouth of a large concrete culvert. Leaving his bag in the drainage tunnel, he nudged himself up the side of a ditch and surveyed the lot. Bright florescent light shone down from the poles interspersed throughout the dealership and reflected about the fleet below. The contrast of the dark sky and colorful automobiles lit with white light was stark, but peaceful. Although his vantage point was limited, Penn placed the security cameras scouring the lot and noted their locations. He dipped below the crest of the ditch, retrieved his bag from the pipe, and edged his way along the berm to an opportunistic spot where the nearest spying camera’s line-of-sight was obstructed by the back row of automobiles.

On all fours with his bag in tow, he crawled through the apron of long grass separating him from the field of cars. Once his fingers touched the pavement, he lowered himself to his stomach and snaked under the steel rail of barrier fence and continued until he was underneath one of the SUVs abutting the back edge of the dealership.

Penn rolled over. His trusted hat, less secure than a ski mask, peeled off his head and he tucked it into his bag, leaving only his faux facial hair to shield his identity. Relying on the residual glow of the dealership’s lights, he examined the undercarriage above him.

Penn saw what he needed to. He unpacked one of the winch cables and uncoiled some of the line. With the slack, he began to string it around the exhaust system and rear axle. Penn then clipped the end, via a carabineer onto itself and pulled the line taunt. The result was an industrial thread entangled and tied around the innards of a six thousand pound anchor of a truck.

Penn dragged the non-clipped end with him and crawled to the neighboring SUV’s underbelly, where he again worked his needle by looping, tying, and half-hitching some the vehicle’s less fixed fixtures: electrical wires, exhaust pipes, hydraulic lines, struts. He continued to sew his cable underneath subsequent cars.

The generous clearance afforded by the gigantic SUVs allowed him to crawl beneath the tall trucks and operate with ample headroom and elbowroom. On the stretches of bare pavement between the new trucks, where the line was exposed, Penn did his best to conceal the connecting cable by wedging it into crevices and blurring the line with gravel and soot.

Click to keep reading… A Mightier Penn (50)

To begin at the beginning, click here… A Mightier Penn (1)

A Mightier Penn (48)

This is not a standalone blog entry or short story, as such, I’d recommend beginning at the beginning: A Mightier Penn (1)

With a lone act, Penn had stepped forward from the nameless ranks and defied a corporation. The fogging left him invigorated, inebriated by the feat and excited by the notoriety, even if his contribution was done anonymously.

Prior to his divorce Penn had identified himself with assigned titles: husband, brother, vice president. But the titles, along with the accompanying façades, had evaporated along with his wife, sister, and employment. The exodus of identity had created a void. But the day’s freewheeling action against the electric company had helped fill that emptiness and gifted him with a reason to rise, motivation to act, and a distraction from his demons. Purposelessness equated idleness, and in Penn’s case, an idle mind was the devil’s workshop.

After the flooding the building with smoke, he did not go directly home. Instead he meandered towards his neighborhood grocery store for celebratory provisions. He hunted for a spot in the store’s cramped parking lot. Midway through his second lap, the promise of white taillights brought him to a stop him midway down a row. His blinker flashed his intention, and he waited for the opening to present itself.

A few cars down from Penn, a pregnant woman toting a toddler in one arm and a gaggle of plastic grocery bags in the other struggled to return to her car. When she arrived, her face, already strained by her armloads, was overtaken by dejected agony – two oversized sport utility vehicles were sandwiching her small station wagon. The mammoth automobiles, swollen SUVs of the ostentatious, obnoxious variety, were tightly wedged into their respective compact spaces, leaving nothing more than a scant inch of impassable separation between the vehicles.

The woman was justifiably upset, but without a show she opened the hatchback of her wagon, loaded her child and groceries from the rear, then climbed through to the driver’s seat, pulling the hatch closed from within.

Penn was disapprovingly shaking his head when he saw from the corner of his eye that a thief wearing tennis whites and a large luxury SUV was stealing his staked-out spot. A grownup temper tantrum boiled within, but he inhaled a deep, pacifying breath and maintained his composure before he inched forward and calmly called to the petite driver as she descended from the heights of her monster truck, “Excuse me, but that was my parking place.”

Either she didn’t hear or didn’t care. She didn’t respond.

Penn persisted with a firmer voice. “Hey, excuse me, but you just stole my spot.”

The repetition yielded the same result.

His third effort was a primal yell that echoed off the grocery store’s brick façade and drew a quizzical look from a passing soccer mom as well as some other shoppers in the parking lot.

The yell caught his target’s attention and she looked at her car and his spot before casually replying, “Oh, it’s O.K., I’m just running in for a sec. I won’t be long.”

Dumbstruck, Penn laughed to himself at the nonsensical reply. Had she not defended her spot with such an absurd non sequitur, Penn would have been blinded in anger, but as it was, he was simply confounded.

Unaware, or more likely uncaring, she turned with a smile and walked to the store.

Eyeing the woman’s gigantic automobile and disregarding the perceivable hypocrisy of his own army jeep, Penn considered behemoth sport utility vehicles and their ungracious owners. He looked around the lot. Gigantic SUVs were everywhere, a plague of insatiable gasoline locust that polluted the world, commandeered the roads, and consumed multiple parking spots.

A rebellion swept over him, and Penn eased his Jeep into the narrow parking spot vacated by the pregnant mother. He crept forward, methodically and spitefully working his Jeep into the scant spot. Midway, he paused and folded in his side mirrors before he continued on his way. The effort was delicate and exacting. When he finally killed his engine, the inches that had formerly separated the small station wagon were now reduced to millimeters. Compounding matters for those on either side where the side mirrors. Although collapsed inward, they were still sizable and positioned precisely behind the mirrors of the other two cars, which when combined with the extreme proximity, effectively blocked his neighbors from being able to reverse without Penn first moving his Jeep.

As the station wagon’s owner had been forced to do minutes before, but in reverse, Penn climbed over the seats and exited from the back of his Jeep to the curious expressions of a few onlookers. Birthed from the tailgate in the tie-less suit, he gazed upon his parking job with satisfaction, noting that the Jeep’s tires, unlike his neighbors’, were well inside the designated white lines. Moral high ground, thought Penn, as he went shopping.

Inside the store, he wound his way up and down the aisles, taking his time and savoring the shopping. After filling his basket, as well as assisting a fellow shopper in locating her AWOL four-year old and another in reaching the top shelf for a can of artichoke hearts, he strolled to the checkout counter. Penn took up residence in line behind a smug gentleman who was waiting with crossed arms while his groceries were scanned, conveyed, and deposited downstream, where they accumulated near the racks of plastic bags. After a dozen items had been rung up, the lower portion of the counter became congested with un-bagged groceries and the backlog crept uphill towards the register.

The customer, well within arms’ reach of both the growing mound of food and the bags, took it upon himself to comment rather than lend a hand in the bagging of his groceries. “Looks like you’re a little short-staffed today.”

The woman behind the register was older and slight. With a soft smile, she nodded in polite agreement and did her best to expedite the checkout process.

Unable to elicit a verbal response from the cashier, the man turned to Penn with an irritated, “I mean this is absolutely ridiculous – I’ve seen glaciers move faster than this.”

Penn joined the cashier in silence and stared through the man while entertaining himself with thoughts of the parked SUVs marinating outside. In maniacal serenity, he wallowed in the slow pace of the checkout process, gleaning enjoyment from both the annoyance of the gentleman at the register and the possible agitation in the parking lot.

The man settled up and grumbled his way from the store, giving way to Penn, who made his way through the checkout with small talk and a helpful hand. Bagged food in hand, he returned to his Jeep to find a pair of disgruntled would-be drivers stomping their impatient feet in a huff.

Once they realized that Penn was their man, they laid into him.

“What’s the big idea?” demanded the first driver.

“Yeah, what gives?” asked the second.

Penn eyed the drivers, their antiquated questions striking him as awkward and leaving him wondering, “What year is this? 1955, and are you the Beaver?”

In theatric fashion he dropped his grocery bags on the ground, threw his hands in the air, and unloaded a melodramatic filibuster. “Oh my gosh! I’m parking you in. I’m so sorry. Gee, I apologize for the inconvenience. I hope you guys weren’t waiting too long. I feel so stupid. I feel so terrible, so bad, so silly.” For effect he rapped himself on the sides of his head with both hands before he tugged on his hair. Penn then elevated the pitch of his voice to that of a middle school girl. “Stupid, stupid, stupid, I’m so stupid and I’m so sorry. Sorry, sorry, sorry, and stupid, stupid.”

The bizarre apology caught his automotive neighbors off guard and deflated their position, but before they had time to regroup and comment, Penn unfurled his trump card.

As if genuinely surprised, he pointed to the parking space lines and in a voice his own managed to sound not only innocent and baffled, but also playfully cynical, he said, “Actually, why am I apologizing? It appears that your giant cars are far too large for these small spaces. Look right here,” he said, pointing as he delivered a dumb grin. “You see how your giant tires are well over the lines? I guess you guys are parking me in.”

It was apparent to both SUV owners that they were being ridiculed, but what were they to do? He was right.

Penn rested his case with a sudden outburst of laughter. A murderous cackle, combined with his business suit, army Jeep, and argument, left the owners’ of the large SUVs feeling confused, perplexed, and a bit frightened. Mouths agape, they watched as Penn, still laughing, scooped his groceries, placed them in the back of the jeep, and climb through the back up into the driver seat. Penn slowly and carefully pulled from the parking spot, bid them farewell and headed on his way.

Less than a mile from the store, Penn was still chewing on his hatred of large SUVs when an absentminded driver of one brought his wide vehicle within inches of Penn, almost sideswiping the Jeep off the side of the road.

Penn squeezed anger from his steering wheel and the vitriol ripped threw him like fire through a house. The jubilation he felt from the smoke bombing and parking lot payback melted away. With white knuckles and bad intentions, he and tacked on an additional stop before heading back to the apartment.

Click to keep reading… A Mightier Penn (49)

To begin at the beginning, click here… A Mightier Penn (1)