“Son,” he told me, smiling an untroubled smile
The air of a good-ole-boy rolling off him like valley mist
“Your problem is, you’re acting like I’m the misfit here”
When I protest, and begin to speak of ethics and cronies
Of the public trust and of honor and integrity, he stops me
“I’m not the misfit for doing what needs to be done,
for having friends in high places who look out for me
and looking out for them in return,” he says
When I ask which of us is the misfit, he jabs at me
“You are, son. All that idealism won’t do you any good
won’t put food on the table, won’t make you six figures”
I say I would rather be poor and honorable, a misfit
Than rich and corrupt, and fit in with his circle
He smiled again, that unconcerned grin widening
The smirk of someone who’s never been challenged
And knows he never will be, not in this life
“If you want to be poor, well then
you’re headed in the right direction
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a check to cash”

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Irrawaddy was pale from blood loss and while his wounds had been cleaned and bound, it was clear to look at him that he was looking at a burial shroud rather shortly. Despite the sepsis eating away at him from the inside already, and the sweat beading heavily on his trembling brows, he was lucid.

“The tiger…” he whispered. “The tiger, yes? As you see…the tiger has got hold of me, dug its claws in deep, left me to die…”

“A tiger did this?” said Sint. “They haven’t been seen around here for centuries.”

“You are aware, yes, of the Three Senseless Creatures? The buddhas tell us that the tiger is anger, senseless and without focus. That was what I felt”

“So it wasn’t a tiger, then, but attached like one.”

“It came at me with no weapon but anger yet anger was enough.” Irrawaddy smiled weakly. “I imagine we would not be speaking now if they had slashed with claws of steel.”

“A man, then,” Sint said. It was a statement, not a question; clearly Irrawaddy was spiraling into delirium.

“A man who attacked with enough ferocity that we actually believed it had been a tiger, for a moment,” added Hayma. “One of the workers, perhaps, starving?”

“Maybe,” said Sint, turning away. “But I wouldn’t expect such canniness from a madman dying of thirst. They waited until Irrawaddy was cut off from the rest of us until they struck.”

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Wild, family said
Crazy
Lost their mind
Clearly
Something had slipped
Maybe
Hanging out with all
Those
Freethinkers had driven
Lunacy
Into their soul
Because they had dared
To repost an article
Saying that people
Shouldn’t die
For lack of
Health
Care

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“Skylar was a mean-spirited son-of-a-bitch, but he’s also a legend,” said Renny. “If you’ve awakened anyone or anything, I’m not sure he’d be my first choice.”

“How exactly do you get to be both a mean-spirited son-of-a-bitch and a legend?”

“Well, he ran a big ranch that he carved out of Arapho lands even before they were officially opened up to settlement. He ran that place like a Swiss watch, and people made good money, but he was brutal to anybody that crossed him, whether it was an Indian trying to hunt on their own lands or a farmhand showing up to work drunk. Wasn’t afraid to dirty his own hands in running the ranch, too, which I think a bunch of folks respected even if they couldn’t stand him. Skylar ran into an Arapho warband during the big war with the Sioux, in ’76. He said they were on his land, they said they were just passing through. Band found itself slaughtered by Skylar and his boys, but he made a mistake: one of the Arapho boys survived a bullet in the back.”

“What happened next?”

“Well, ’76 was not the time to be pissing off the Arapho. This was around the time Custer was making the same mistake with the Sioux, you see. They decided they’d had just about enough of this mean old white boy on their land, so they sent about two hundred braves to kill him. Skylar’s boys abandoned him, so he fought them single-handedly from his ranch house. They got him, of course; no man stands up to two hundred, especially when they have repeaters. But he took damn near fifty of the Arapho with him, and they actually buried him and considered his scalp to be a high token. Skylar was a bastard, but he owned it and wasn’t afraid to put himself on the line for his bad decisions.”

“And that’s the spirit you think we’ve been seeing?”

“Like I said,” Renny shrugged. “I hope not. For your sake.”

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I scream at the wind until I’m hoarse
Before holding a sign and shouting

I lash the frothy waters with a whip
Before signing a petition for a good cause

I break a stone with a hammer for tripping me
Before posting a flier about injustice

Why do I feel that I am doing the same thing
Over and over again, identically
And expecting
Different
Results?

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He sits there, with that smile
You’ve seen a thousand times
Crossing the lips of folks
Who know they’re getting away
And there’s nothing you can do

Unearned man in unearned chair
Get him in there, they said
And it won’t matter how he did
Get him in there, they said
And it’ll be hard to get him out

They say we need to face facts
They say we need to be realistic
Work with him, give him a chance
It’s really not so bad, is it
That he doesn’t fit the chair

And as they speak, you see the smile
They didn’t need to face facts
They didn’t need to be realistic
They just did, confident in the fact
That they would get away with it
As they always have and always will

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Ne strelyayte, ya odin iz vas!” Jones cried. “Ne strelyayte, ya odin iz vas!

The oncoming Russian troops looked at him quizzically. Jones, apparently glad of their curiosity, fired his revolver in the direction of his fleeing companions.

“See? See? Ne strelyayte, ya odin iz vas!” he yelled. “Look, Bolo, I’m on your side!”

One of the Americans, falling back while reloading, was caught by Jones’ revolver. He slumped to the ground, spilling cartridges in a shower and dropping his Mosin. Jones turned to the advancing Russians, grinning.

Chto nam s nim delat’? one of them cried. “Etot predatel?

Pristreli yego! shouted another. “U nas dostatochno!

The first Russian nodded, and racked the bolt on his Mosin. He fired, and Jones went down hard, a “Ne strelyayte-” on his lips. He lay on his side, eyes and mouth open as if in surprise, as the attackers swarmed past him.

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