Friday, October 31, 2008

Doubting You, Doubting Me.

They walked along the dirt path under the stars. Shelly could feel Adam's eyes searching her face in the darkness. She could make out his shrug against the blue-black sky.

"I don't know why you ask me. I like every picture you do."

She blew the cold air out, watching it mist across the stars overhead. "Maybe it's what I need to hear."

"But you already know I like it."

She didn't answer. He knew it didn't matter if she already knew. She could feel what was coming and it annoyed her. He was going to make this about him.

"Come here." They stopped walking as he put his arm around her shoulder, drawing her close. She pushed her hands into the front pocket of his sweatshirt. He always found a million tiny ways to remind her of how wonderful he was.

Adam kissed the top of her head. Shelly smiled, laying her head against his shoulder. He smelled like a wood fire and rosemary. He drew in a deep breath. She looked up at his face and saw he was crying.

"What's wrong?"

He shook his head. "Nothing."

"Tell me." She was mad again. She always felt like he was against her when he shut her out, like they weren't really part of something together.

"I don't know. I just never get anything right with you."

"What are you talking about?"

Adam took her hand. Their eyes had adjusted to the dim light of the night sky. "Can we walk?"

"If you tell me what's wrong."

Adam breathed in and they started again, up the trail. "You always doubt little things. I mean, you wonder if I like what you cook or what you paint or whatever, but I get worried about stuff that makes things really hard for both of us."

He was going to make this about him.

Shelly could feel her stomach turn. She could almost fill in the words. He was going to tell her he'd done something bad or that he wanted to break up. Her voice was weak in the cold air. "Like what?"

Adam stared at the ground as they kept walking. The grass was a tangle of gray, black, and blue beneath his feet. "I just fuck things up. I'm not smart or successful. I mean, I just don't know how to be one of those guys." He wiped his nose off on the sleeve of his free hand. "I just always feel like you're about to get tired and go find somebody else, you know?"

Shelly was quiet. She couldn't argue against his characterization of the situation, as self-defeating and pathetic as it was. She could still smell the wood fire smoke on him. She pulled at his arm and stopped him again. "I don't love you for all the things you're not. I love you for the things you are." She could feel everything inside him as though it was carried through their touch.

He looked at her with empty eyes. He didn't believe her.

She put her hand behind his head, pulling him down into a kiss. It was her own way of reminding him of how wonderful she was and erasing the hurt. She looked in his eyes again, starting to cry a little herself.

"Hey. Come back to me."

Adam breathed out and tried to smile as a whisper trailed off his lips, "Sorry."

Her voice was soft. "It's okay."

His eyes were tired as he let go of her hand. "It's cold. Do you want to go back?"

Shelly put her arms around him, burying her face against his sweatshirt. She needed his comfort again. She wanted to hold him until he knew how much she loved him. He wrapped his arms around her as she kissed him on the side of the mouth. "Not yet."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

President Jack Bauer and The McRib: Episode 2

The Secretary of State walked into the Oval Office to find President Bauer doing one-handed push-ups on the presidential seal.

"Excuse me, Mr. President. I can wait outside, but it's actually kind of urgent."

"Two-hundred and fifty." Jack stood up, dripping sweat on the carpet. "No. It's fine. Just punishing myself for drizzling cheese on my broccoli." Jack wiped his face on a dirty shirt and frowned. "How many times do I have to tell you? Call me Jack."

"Yes sir, Mr. Bauer. Jack."

Bauer pulled on his shirt and stared into the face of the Secretary. "What is it? It better not be paperwork. President Bauer doesn't do paperwork."

"We've got a couple situations sir. It seems a warlord in northern Liberia, named Cameron Jabuti, has taken several American students hostage and is demanding the release of seven of his friends awaiting trial for war crimes."

"Cameron Jabuti. Hmm. Sounds like a made up name."

"Yes sir."

"I thought this job was going to be a lot of speeches and kissing babies."


"It's Jack, remember."

"Oh, yes. Right. Jack." The Secretary of State collected himself and continued. "We've mobilized Special Ops forces in the area and prepared a statement. The White House press corp is waiting for you to address the nation."

"Get Air Force One here on the double and have the press move to the south lawn. I'll give them a statement on my way out."

"I'm not sure I understand."

Jack scowled. "I'm going to get those kids back."

"You can't be serious."

"Where's the Vice President?"

The Secretary scowled. "That's the other situation. He was in route to Liberia for a summit when this all started. His assistant has been in contact and the Vice President is refusing to reroute his trip."

Jack smiled. "Son of a bitch is getting a head start."


Five minutes later, Jack hurried down the hallway, escorted by the Secret Service. He pulled his own pistol, checking the rounds before sliding the clip back in place.

"Are you guys following me? Seriously. I've got this. Why don't you go shoot some counterfeiters or something?"

The agents shrugged and watched Bauer walk out of the White House. He was a determined man. In the short time they'd provided protection to him, they had learned that Jack Bauer wasn't someone who took "no" for an answer. The prime minister of Germany had learned that the hard way.

Her collarbone was still healing.

Bauer kept his pistol drawn as he approached the podium on the south lawn. The press kept a safe distance away. He gave a nod to the NBC camera guy, the one who always kept an eye on his LCD display while twittering updates on developing political situations.

The press secretary approached him with a forced smile. "Is the gun really necessary?"

Bauer stared him down. "Better safe than sorry. Who are you?"

Bauer ignored the college boy's stammering as he stepped up to the podium.

"My fellow Americans, as I'm sure you're all aware, some crazy Liberian has taken American students hostage. I have a message for this so-called, Cameron Jabuti." Jack shot an intense glare at the cameras and spit on the ground. "I'm coming after you, you yellow-bellied son of a bitch. No one takes our sons and daughters and gets away with it. I'll be seeing you in the next 24 hours."

And with that, President Bauer marched toward Air Force One. The stewardess smiled as the President boarded. "Welcome aboard, Mr. President."

"I'm traveling light. Get off."

She swallowed and descended the ladder. Jack made his way to the cockpit. "I'll fly."

The pilot shrugged. "Why not?"


Fourteen hours later, sand whipped against the side of Air Force One. Jack zipped up his jacket, filled the pockets with extra rounds, and drank a fifth of whiskey. He adjusted his crotch and frowned. "I should've worn the ones with the cock spikes."

The pilot gave a bewildered look. "What?"

"They help me think through difficult situations." Jack stopped at the door, turning back to the pilot. "If I'm not back in ten hours, have the air force carpet bomb the whole country."

"I don't think I'm authorized to..."

...but Jack was already gone.


Cameron Jabuti was a shrewd man, albeit, bat shit crazy. He wore human teeth on a necklace and occasionally burst out laughing just before pointing his cane toward ground and saying "Good one, Satan."

He turned to Lieutenant Fang, with a gleam in his eyes. "Make the boys put on dresses."


"Not our men. The American boys. I want to see them in dresses."

The lieutenant nodded reluctantly. "As you wish, General Jabuti."

Jabuti grabbed the lieutenant's arm, his eyes moving around in Cookie Monster directions. "Do you smell barbecue sauce?"

The lieutenant shrugged, unsure of the correct answer. "Maybe."

Jabuti nodded and smiled. "Yes. He's here."

Fang walked off, shaking his head. He muttered to himself after he turned the corner. "Fucking insane."


Outside, twelve Army Rangers huddled just behind a ground swell. They looked out at the sand storm blowing gusts against a desolate three story building. Sergeant Smith rolled over and grinned at his men. "Must me the tallest building in the whole country. Who's got a smoke?"

One of the other rangers pointed out towards the building. "Look, sir!"

Smith looked back out at the building. "Holy shit. Is that President Bauer?"

Bauer was staying low, skirting past a rusted out truck, moving fast as he closed in on the building. He crept along the rattling tin siding and was almost to the door when it opened. A young soldier with a scar running down the length of his face stepped out.

The soldier dropped his weapon and his eyes grew wide. "I surrender! I surrender!"

Bauer shot him in both knee caps. He looked down at the soldier and scowled. "That's a chance I just can't take." Bauer ran in through the door into a large room where six other soldiers sat on a busted up couch, passing a joint. "So much for the element of surprise."


Gun shots echoed from inside the building as Sergeant Smith threw up hand signals.

His second in command gave a confused look. "Breaking ball, low and to the inside?"

Smith frowned. "We're moving."

"Yes, sir."


The pothead soldiers groaned and rolled around on the floor, clutching their knees. Bauer threw down his pistol and screamed. "Go ahead, you maniacs. Tie me up. Beat me. I won't tell you anything."

At just that moment, Jabuti and Lieutenant Fang walked into the room.

"What's going on here?" Jabuti's eyes lit up. "Ah! President Bauer. What an unexpected surprise." Jabuti motioned to Lieutenant Fang. "Seize him!"

Fang pushed Bauer to the ground and tied his wrists with twine. Fang kicked him in the ribs and spit on the American president. "Get up, you dog."

Bauer stood on shaky legs and glared at Fang. "You're going to regret that."

Jabuti struck his cane against the floor. "Enough talk. Bring him. We'll put him with the others."

Fang prodded Bauer with his rifle as they walked up the rickety metal stairs leading to the second floor. They came to the doorway of a room, dark behind it's beaded curtain. Inside, eight students huddled in the corner, the girls in jeans and the boys in dresses.

Jabuti laughed. "Say hello to your countrymen."

Bauer grimaced. "Hello ladies. Don't worry. We're going to get out of here."

One of the students whispered to her boyfriend. "Oh my god. Is that President Bauer?"

Jabuti hit his can against the ground. "Tie him to a chair."

Two guards stepped out from the shadows and wrestled Bauer against a metal chair, binding him in heavy ropes.

Bauer stared at Jabuti with a defiant look. "Who's mother do I have to defame to get this process started?"

Jabuti hit the insolent American president across the face with his cane.

"I love it! Is that the best you've got?"

Jabuti smiled at the president. "You're a spirited man, President Bauer, but you're spirit will soon be broken." Jabuti turned to one of his men. "Bring the phone." He turned to the other guard. "You. Show the President our best hospitality."

The guard smiled and cracked his knuckles.


Outside, the rangers moved stealthily around the perimeter of the building. The second in command approached Smith and whispered. "The windows are too high. I don't know what kind of building code they have in this country, but it looks like the only way in or out is through the front door."

Something dripped on the ground between them. The second in command looked shocked. "You're bleeding!"

Smith put a finger on the ground and then touched it to his tongue. "It's sweet and tangy sauce." The soldiers looked up at the roof of the building. A rope came over the top and slapped against the tin siding. "I'll be damned."

"Is that?"

"Mr. Vice President. The McRib."


Jabuti put his cane under Bauer's chin and raised his head. "You will call Washington and give the order that a helicopter is to be sent with one hundred million dollars in unmarked bills and my friends released from their unjust imprisonment."

"I'll see you in hell."

Jabuti punched Bauer in the gut, causing the President to cough up blood. "Stay on the subject." A wild look came into Jabuti's eyes. He turned to the guards. "Is someone making hot pockets?"

It was all Bauer needed.

He swiftly kicked Jabuti in the groin and shook off his bonds. He leaped from the chair and sank his teeth into the madman's neck, mumbling as his teeth clenched on the tight flesh. "Tel thm to dop thr wupons."

Jabuti's face filled with fear. "Do as he says! Drop your weapons."

"A ltl hlp hr."

The students looked at each other. "What did he say?"

Jabuti's eyes made crazy circles. "A little help here. He said he needed a little help."

One of the students rushed over and untied Bauer's hands. Bauer pulled Jabuti's neck down with him toward the floor. He picked up a discarded rifle and stuck it under Jabuti's neck as he released his hold on the maniac's jugular.

"That's better." He glanced at the student, a med student named Todd. "Thanks, sugar." Bauer glared at Jabuti's men. "Now, if you don't mind, tie those boys together and try to do a better job than they did with me."

"Yes sir."

Bauer shot a confused look at the boy, but gave him a gentlemanly pat on the ass all the same. "You can call me Jack."


Moments later, the students emerged from the building. Bauer followed with the rifle stuck in Jabuti's back.

The rangers grabbed Jabuti and ushered the students away to safety. Smith smiled at the Commander in Chief. "Thank God you're alright."

Bauer shook his head. "Thank the McRib." Bauer frowned. "You better send a couple men in there. I left more trash upstairs."

Smith nodded and gestured for his troops to head inside.

Bauer rubbed his sore neck. "What time is it?"

"Oh-eight-hundred on the nose."

"Good. I've got at least four minutes to spare. Do you have a phone with you?"

"Yeah. Our communications officer has one that'll work."

"Good. I need to call off an air strike."

Smith turned around as two of his soldiers repelled down the side of the building, one holding the Vice President. Smith slapped them on the back. "Great work, guys. Come on, let's get something to eat and something for these kids."

The soldier holding the McRib looked down, fatigue and hunger in his eyes. Bauer stepped toward him. "Don't even think about it."

"I'm sorry, sir. Sometimes I forget the Vice President is a sandwich."

Bauer took the McRib from the soldier and smiled. "The McRib's no sandwich, son. The McRib's a hero."