“All hail the long-dead coal baron and builder of our city!” Mayor Giovanni announced at the erection of Captain Rumsby Calvin’s fibreglass statue back in 1973, at the 100th anniversary of the mining development that changed our farming town of Satilano into an industrialized and prosperous mid-sized urban area.
Modern days have come, the coal’s all used up, and the statue’s ready for political removal. It stands a bit bird splattered and forgotten, gazing out at the harbour. There’s about twelve of us milling about the figure. We’re a radical offshoot of a larger group protesting the proposal to create a molybdenum mine a hundred miles north of town. Molybdenum is used in armour plating, as a cauliflower fertilizer, and treatment for esophageal and other cancers.
“It’s odd, but Captain Calvin died from esophageal cancer, likely due to his pipe smoking and time in the coal shafts,” I tell my followers.
“The statue looks like bronze, but it’s made of fibreglass,” says my young Twitter acquaintance, Emma.
She sports a red wig; the tendrils resemble spaghetti covered with hot sauce. Emma’s highly athletic. She paddleboards like an arrow across the Satilano sound. Her super-buff arms do shoulder pulls as she flexes her legs in front of Captain Calvin’s plinth.
“The statue is why we’re here today, Johnny Kork,” she tells me. “It’s not about the real dude and his esophagus.”
I agree. That statue’s a role model for the past the captain helped create. We are the ones to change history.
“Just imagine that you’re always being filmed,” I tell her, “Because actually, you are always being filmed,” and I gesture at tourists adjusting their screens.
They’re attracted by an ancient, kilted busker who squeals the bagpipes near a mound covered by a blanket, under that mound is my octogenarian buddy Myles Anton who has only one arm from catching his limb in a wood shredder at a sawmill twenty years ago. I wear a fake brown mountain man beard and a frontier buckskin outfit that I bought from Myles, who limps up and down the harbour selling knick-knacks from his basement storage suite. Partying college youths stumble by and make crow noises at my jacket and I tell them “I sell a natural patchouli body wash, door to door.”
Many are intrigued by this wash due to my powerful voice and incredible inner confidence with a charismatic presentation. I carry bottles of wash with me, to make sales and assure that the air here in the harbour smells like patchouli. I give all my acquaintances free samples.
Beside me stands Reg, the organizer of this Twitter meetup club of statue destruction radicals, so skinny he could slip through a sailor’s knot, I like his eyebrow seashells, he’s threaded several through those upper brows, and tied a number round his waist. He walks with leg clatters from the tumbling belted shells; he works at a copy place and has a degree in sociology.
“If we assign enough ropes that statue will come down,” Reg tells me, as he squeezes some of my perfumed mix under his pits.
“Johnny, what did Captain Calvin do that was so bad?” asks Samantha.
She’s kind of stocky and good at woodwork, she tells us she built an entire model house out of toothpicks and glue.
“Captain Calvin ran the Satilano Island coal empire, sister,” Emma pipes up. “That big castle, Idarock, that all the tourists photograph and souvenir, was built on the backs of exploited coal workers.”
“Maybe we could throw buckets of fake blood on the statue,” I say. “To represent the historical oppression. I can brew some from non-toxic goat milk.”
“We could toss the milk, then tear the statue down,” Reg agrees.
“If we do remove Calvin’s presence,” I say, using my best radio announcer voice “It won’t be the absence that matters, because people will forget what was once within the gap. It will be our own personal action that we’ll remember, even though there’s nothing there.”
“Yeah,” says Samantha, she stares up at the glass bank towers thrusting above Captain Calvin’s statue. “I don’t even remember what was in that space before,” she says.
“The sky,” Emma tells her.
“Those are our modern monuments,” I smile.
The activists listen closely as I explain the structure of these new financial cathedrals. “Built out of the interest of millions.”
The bagpipe screecher reaches a denouement with “Amazing Grace.”
The mound beside the Scot shifts. I see Myles’ shaggy head appear, and his sign which reads “Nostalgic Seventies Garb,” for today he has hauled a pile of flare pants here in his shopping cart, and they are folded over this conveyance, their wide sections prominently displayed.
I stand on one leg and stretch my foot back.
“Let’s buy all of Myles’ pants,” I tell my fellow demonstrators.
“What for, Johnny?” Reg asks.
I look up again at the huge towers and a sun glint off the glass hits me right in the face. I think of the possible molybdenum mine under construction up country and I think “How long can all this go on?”
Yet now is the time of opportunity.
“We can knot all those pants together, stretch them behind the statue, begin a tug o war pull and use pressure force until old Captain Calvin snaps” I state.
“How much are those clothing items?” Emma asks, as Myles moves his cart piled high with wearables and knickknacks further from the bagpipe swirl, bending his legs diagonal, with one arm pushing and the other limb, short and stumpy on one end, holding the cart steady so it doesn’t turn into the roadway. He stops and stands as he hears Emma ask the question.
“Fifty bucks the whole lot,” says Myles.
He’s got long black hair and the mumbles; Emma asks him to repeat the price and this time he says, “Sixty bucks.”
“Don’t you think we’re exploiting this man?” Samantha asks. “There must be at least a hundred bucks worth of pants here.”
“Then we’ll give him another forty,” says Emma, and she does.
“Thank you, Irish,” Myles shakes his shaggy head. “I love the Irish.”
Reg and Samantha are knotting the pants. It’s going to take the whole pile to make a long enough cotton belt, but I can see the material is strong. There’s blue jeans and pedal pushers, gym attire with “The Joker” written on them.
“What if this doesn’t work?” asks Samantha.
“It’s the method of our actions that’s key,” I tell her. “Being in the spur of the moment, without a chance for regret.”
For me, making things up as I go along seems the most efficient method. In times of crisis, that is the mark of a true anti-leader.
The larger demonstration continues at the town hall lawn across the street. Someone’s screaming into a microphone. Police stand in a circle with their earbuds in, weighted down with body armour carapaces. They’re not bothering anyone.
Beside us, a dump truck hauling demolition debris crawls by, drowning out the bagpipes for a few seconds. I think some traffic cop made a mistake and let it through. The driver stops to allow the crowds to cross back and forth. Some stand in the middle of the street. He beeps his horn and tries to manoeuvre, then puts his truck in idle.
“That vehicle’s a great cover,” I tell everyone, as Emma and Reg drape the pants around Captain Calvin’s legs, the most vulnerable place in his fibreglass likeness. We have about twenty feet of cotton clothing all tied together.
“Come on over here and help us pull!” Reg gesticulates to passing demonstrators.
My little group’s hauling on the pants, in tug o war style, and as we’re seen, more folks rush over to give us force. The pants are taut against the slim legs of fibreglass Calvin.
I stand with my Buffalo Bill outfit and call in my radio announcer voice, “Come help bring down this ghostly shade of the rotten past!”
I turn to the tug-of-war group, writhing round in front of the captain “Pull, my friends and allies!”
We all yell and sing. Jazz is the theme, improvisation from the busker bagpipes to the scat sounds of the idol destroyers, from Myles Anton yelling how he loves the Irish to a truck horn beeping and the snap of Captain Calvin’s statue legs as the fibreglass gives way.
“The coal baron’s down!” Reg lets out a whoop, his seashells rattling as he dances, Emma’s grasping Captain Calvin’s head; she’s scribbling something with a red felt pen.
“Toss him in the back of that trailer!” I yell in my radio announcer voice, and because of that, and because I am in frontier garb wearing a Cossack style hat and waving my arms towards the truck, the crowd obeys. They contain energy to spare, and that goes straight into lunge action as the statue is lifted and heaved into the back of the demolition truck, the flare pant rope right behind it. Only the ankles are left jagged on the plinth. Samantha seems to have cut herself on an edge. Reg uses his own T shirt to wrap around her arm.
“What did you write on the head?” I ask Emma.
“Dollar signs, Johnny,” she tells me.
The truck driver moves his vehicle further down the avenue and we can still see the captain’s head poking out, he seems to have lost an arm. Protestors dance around the wheels throwing their empty coffee cups onto the statue.
“I love your energy!” I tell everyone and thrust back my jacket to show a dozen bottles of my famous patchouli body wash.
“Have I not shown you revolution?” I call to Emma. “You have pulled those pants well.”
The truck disappears round the corner with the load of coal baron.
“Where’s the statue?” Reg laughs, pointing at the place where it once stood. “Where’s the bloody statue?”
A couple of police walk to the middle of the crosswalk, likely attracted by the commotion, and look around.
“Nothing violent here!” yells Emma. “Everyone’s having a good time.”
The police nod at her as they try to forge their new peacekeeping image. I doubt if they realize anything’s missing.
“Let’s head out!” I say to my followers, “Our mission is done!”
Emma’s already loping toward the lake with her paddleboard, ready to push and glide across the still night waters to her parent’s home on the other side. Samantha’s staring at the gap where the statue stood, holding her arm with the T shirt wrapped round it.
I don’t look back, keep striding up the street threading through the other demonstrators until I meet that part of town where people sleep in doorways in the land of drug slumber, where no-one cares about anything but the insides of their head.
This reminds me that I must never stop my thrust into the world. I must push against the urge to slumber. If I injected my way into the land of nodding dreams, I’d be a shell within a month.
I notice Myles Anton’s up the street heaving his empty cart back towards his junk packed basement room. Sticking out of that cart is part of an arm.
“Is that Captain Calvin’s?” I ask Myles.
“I should’ve got the whole thing,” he says, “Display in my window, scare the pigeons. There’s always too damn many pigeons.”
“That’s too bad what happened to your real arm,” I tell him.
He looks at me and grimaces.
“I forget it’s not there.”
“What’s your opinion on the molybdenum mine?”
“If I could work, I’d apply for a job.”
I lope up the narrow stairs where I live and the hallway lights fill my eyes like the sun off the glass towers, I turn and glance heavenward and note that the ceiling’s a spackled alabaster, likely drywall mixed with asbestos.
“That’s a problem with these old buildings,” I think.
I open the door to my room and the patchouli smell hits. All the open bottles of my special wash are curing on a wooden plywood sheet atop the bed. I sing a jazz scat, lift the plywood and its contents and lower it to the floor.
Then I remove my Buffalo Bill outfit and beard and stand in front of the make-up mirror I pulled from the trash, my arms akimbo like the statue of Captain Calvin. I purse my lips and stretch my cheek skin back behind my ears. I can still run with the youngsters; I still smell good. I let the cheek skin go and it flops back to its gravitational position. I turn on the tiny TV above the dresser.
“Vandals today destroyed the Captain Calvin statue at the Town Square,” says the announcer, and they show video of that very scene, with bearded me encouraging the crowd into a tug o war team. Reg must have sent them his phone link.
I see Myles push by with his empty cart, then there’s a shot of the dump truck carrying off the fibreglass Calvin. The camera shows me cheering on the statue’s disappearance, I’m yelling “The history gap is open, let’s fill it in with something new!”
I peer out my window at the glass buildings and the construction cranes in the distance and wonder how much longer the speed of progress can continue. These are the true monuments, built faster every day. How tall will these glass towers become, how bright and lasting their reflections?
Time to prepare a positive message. I take some of the patchouli, smooth it across my forehead, lift the selfie stick and speak in my radio announcer voice. “We’ll fix our mistakes with new purpose and meaning. And there’s no slowing down until we do.”
I open my mouth, move the selfie stick closer, and look inside. I perceive a space leading down a long black hole. I raise my phone, make a growl from deep in my throat and roar it out the window. Nothing shatters, but within seconds, from that black hole to the Tik Tok internet, I will send my followers the sound of triumph. Captain Calvin is down.
Image by Tippa Naphtali from Pixabay
9 thoughts on “The Entrepreneur of Chaos by Harrison Kim ”
Observant and wry. Notes the odd mob-hive behavior of a society whose students are uncertain of the link between WWII and the Holocaust. It’s obviously much more productive to knock noses off statues about people nobody knows anything about than apply positive energy to one’s own hellworld. If I were to commission just one statue to correctly frame the present US for the ages, it would feature a forlorn person in rags slumped in a doorway with a second oblivious to the first person carrying a sign demanding equal rights for the Sith, face twisted with anger and righteousness. I’d dare the future to make it obsolete. Well done and telling of why it’s getting to be an awful drag to stay alive.
Oh no! Hope that there’s still some joy in life! I kind of see a lot of this sort of thing as entertaining, for both participants and the general public, a way to start discussion via vandalism he he. However, these days critical thinking questioning aspects of proclaimed truth can be met with ad hominem and the observer’s cancellation, which is a disturbing religious style trend. Thanks for the comment, Leila.
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Great, humourous, imaginative writing full of vivid, mad, funny characters. Also so many excellent descriptions and superb pace. And, where do you get all the so well chosen character names from?
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I appreciate the comment, Paul. Names come from reversing people’s usual ones, for example, you’d be Kimm Paul. The U. S. President would be Biden Joe (he he).
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It’s impressive to see an author develop so many distinct characters in such a short space. Yesterday’s heroes become today’s villains. I fear it’s a cycle that will continuously repeat. Excellent story.
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Thanks, David H. Indeed, that’s the cycle. The dark joke in Russia is that there’s so many cultural and political revolutions that governments could save money by designing statues so that they’d only have to replace the heads. For example, Stalin’s head replaces Lenin’s, but the rest of the statue stays the same. Great way to save sculptor expenses!
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This is a very current story.
I have always been a bit militant and very anti-establishment but I do have some turmoil regarding the defacing / destruction of statues. At the time and how they got their wealth was abhorrent. But if whoever opened a town / university / museum / whatever and they flourished, does the good outweigh the bad?? (Probably not) but here’s the point, those who rip down these statues would probably not be here if that oppression / manipulation hadn’t been used in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong, the history of money has so much blood on it that makes it repellent! (HAH – Same as the church and royalty)
What I think should be done is simply change the rhetoric on it. Place a brass plate on all these statues and state numbers of deaths at their hands, the oppression, slavery, manipulation etc and simply state that was the price to pay in those days for whatever we benefit on these days. So to be honest when you think on it, if you want fuck all to do with the bastard who did whatever, don’t pull down their statue – Move somewhere else!!!!
History is all about the Social Commentary OF THE TIME!!
Anyhow back to the story.
I think the hippy-dippy descriptions of the protagonist’s was a brilliant use by your good self of stereotypes. Not many could get away with that.
I’m shit at knots and am impressed by tying trousers together!!!
I love the line, ‘We’ll fix our mistakes with new purpose and meaning’
…Cause when you think on it, how will that new purpose and meaning be seen in a hundred years time??
Now that is a clever Social Statement!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I really did enjoy this.
All the very best my fine friend.
Indeed, the tearing down of statues is symbolic and trendy these days and the history is much more complex than a good/bad dichotomy. There’s been a lot of bad sh** going down over the centuries, no question. One way to look at it all is through satire, although much reality these days eclipses satire with its absurdity. On the subject of knots… my pants keep falling down currently, hips tending to vanish… I think it’s time for braces then I can truly look like a farmer. Thanks for the comment, Hugh.
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Your website is a true gem on the internet.