The Iraq War Was Appropriate

Monday, January 17, 2005

Novel Excerpt 3

I fear the impression given by my previous excerpt may be that The Realignment Crescendo will focus mostly on the higher-ups in the Executive Branch. Although (by necessity) their movements and machinations are indeed intermittently tracked for plot purposes, I assure you, that is not the main thrust of the novel. The epic sweep of the story is such that it is difficult to encapsulate, but in brief it is, in part, simply a biography of a humble, patriotic American. At least, that is how I like to think of it.

To illustrate this let me jump ahead to Part 2, Maelstrom of Wills, and excerpt a passage which is, as we encounter it, an opium-induced flashback to Hedge's early childhood. (As in many other places in the novel, I have employed the literary technique of time-shifting; I trust this shall not be too confusing to the reader.) In addition to re-emphasizing who is really at the center of this tale, this excerpt should, I think, give you a better idea of Hedge's origins and upbringing.


"Wahry, keep quiet", whispered Tamika resolutely. "I won't ret them kihr you but you must hehrp me." She was still tightly clutching the shotgun, which unseen by Wally she had already deftly reloaded.

Wally was pale. He nodded robotically and followed her down the alley, away from the stonefaced men - "M-G-B", his father had enigmatically spelled out with his dying breath - who had just ruthlessly gunned down the only family Wally Hedge had ever known moments before, as Wally and Tamika watched from the garden where they had been playing. If she hadn't blasted one of the killers, the squat one, they too would probably be dead.

He was shocked to realize that his part-time nanny was all he had now. It would not be the first shock he would experience in the coming days. Who would have guessed that this shy, slight girl with downcast eyes and long straight hair, who had come from Japan only three years ago to live with them, would prove to be the thin thread upon which little P. Wallach Hedge's future, and indeed his very life, now hung?

Tamika's arrival by ship had been the culmination of some mysterious pact Father claimed to have made during the war with a certain Jap soldier - a now-dead Jap soldier. That, at least, is all Eddie could ever bring himself to say by way of explanation. Mother had initially protested, but deep down she understood the man she married, and his sense of honor. Edwin Hedge, Jr. was never one to go back on a promise. Tamika, sixteen when she arrived and already a burgeoning beauty, was welcomed, if uneasily, into the Hedge household. Quickly and with a grateful quietude she set about doing her part in tending to little Wally - then but eight years old - tacitly providing her with a helping-hand, that Althea came to welcome and trust. Wally was delighted and mystified by the lithe alien girl. When they were alone, she would (for he had easily picked up a bit of the Jap language from her) fill his head with strange and wonderful tales of her homeland. Her eyes spoke of deeper sadness, never spoken of. Days together were like flowers.

Now, Wally struggled mightily to keep up with the graceful, gazelle-like figure of Tamika as she sprinted stealthily down the dimly-lit back streets to escape the killers.

"Slow down", Wally panted at her. "Where are we going? Why don't we go to the.. th-the police?"

Tamika stopped, turned around and slapped him jarringly in the face. In a controlled hush: "No pohrice! Pohrice on their side. You understand? But I know where go. I know peopre help. We get out. You forrow."

And then she turned, and ran. Wally gave in. It was her or nothing, he decided then and there. He let her lead, he let her take charge. She took him that night into a dizzying underworld of secret knocks, of smoke-filled gambling dens. At one point, for an agonizing hour or so, Tamika left him alone in a diner as she went to meet with some important "friend"; when she came back she looked disheveled, but her eyes told Wally that she had want she wanted: "We have ticket now."

Four days later they were in a junk in Hong Kong harbour, a temporary way-station before word could be gotten to them of the new living quarters, and identities, that had been mysteriously (to Wally) arranged for them somewhere in Kowloon. America - picket fences, Brooklyn Dodgers, soda fountains, cowboy movies - now, all was just a distant, hazy dream for Wally - Wallach - Hedge. In the months and years that were to follow, Tamika would be his only guardian as well as his teacher: instructing or arranging for his instruction in languages, history, culture; in survival skills, martial arts. Although neither of them could possibly know it now, after a certain point, she would even instruct him in the arts of love.

But all of that was still to come. For now, on this day in 1949, eleven year old Wallach Hedge gazed out at the tall buildings beyond the array of staccato lines created by Oriental shipwrights that was traced out by countless ships, and thought only of three letters whose meaning he could merely guess at for now: M-G-B. He would not fail to notice - or be fooled - when the organization in question altered its name to KGB. Nor would he be forget what those bastards had done to Edwin and Althea Hedge - and consequently to his childhood.




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