Three Dollars

This Saturday was no different than any other Saturday in Hollywood, Florida. A refreshing breeze blew in from the Atlantic on the hungry tourists out looking for a good seafood dinner and a night of jazz. In one particular oyster pub on Harrison Street though, there was a little trouble. It was nothing serious, just another case of one-too-many, perhaps.

Screwdrivers and Rum and Cokes had been flowing for a few hours for three men at the bar. When it had come time to settle up their bill though, an argument started. The bartender couldn’t quite decipher what they were arguing about but they were obviously wasted. She kept an eye on them and busied herself with her regulars while the trio sorted it out. She motioned for the manager to stand by and a minute later she turned to the men and asked if there was any problem.

The clean-shaven man with the penetrating eyes, his voice slurred and scornful, said “No, there is no problem. I am a pilot. I have plenty of money.” He then got to his feet and pulled a thick wad of bills from his pocket, fifties and hundreds, and tossed a few onto the bar. The bartender bit her lip and made their change.

When the men left, the bartender returned to where they had made their little scene. She found three wet dollar bills soaking in a circle of condensation.

And that’s what happened at Shuckum’s on the evening of September 8th. Except, none of this really happened. It could have happened. Maybe it did. Just not on this night. A lot of stories spread after the attacks.

But the day before this story supposedly occurred, Mohammad Atta and his coconspirators were already in Maryland, making final preparations for their fatal mission.


Such a Thing

On January 25th, 1504, city officials of the Signoria and representatives of the artist community were at an emergency meeting in Florence. All thirty of them had just come from a viewing of the commission and all were equally concerned. Things had only begun to calm after twelve years of intrigue and turmoil in Italy. The famines and plagues were abating and Florence, Milan, and Rome were at a temporary peace. Tensions were still high, though, and a symbol of defiance might not be prudent. The question was: Where to put it then?

Botticelli argued for it to be placed at the Cathedral. But da Vinci pointed out that exposure to the elements would exacerbate the structural flaws in the marble. Besides, it was a nude. Flagrantly so. It was beyond the sensibilities of the average church-goer in these prudish times.

Di Cosimo and Lippi suggested it be placed at the Palazzo Vecchio. This idea quickly gained acceptance among the group.

A goldsmith, Andreas “Il Riccio,” heard the last suggestion and shuddered. He was thinking of the menace he felt when he saw it. “This thing is going to elicit reaction, there is no question,” he thought. The tenseness in the neck. The coursing, enlarged veins. The horrible stare. Ready for battle. It was beautiful.

“At least let us confine it to the courtyard,” he pleaded. “It will be covered there and we will be able to regard it privately. It is not for such a thing to go towards the passerby!”

When Michelangelo’s David was uncovered six months later at the entrance of the City Council, it was facing south – towards Rome. The Florentines who saw it’s view from the west, saw only the softer side of the shepherd-warrior, his genitalia and “divine flanks” covered with a copper girdle.


There and Back Again

The case before the Supreme Court in Stockholm was open and shut. How it even came to that level only spoke to the popularity of the man being charged. Ola Mansson was a powerful member of the Farmer Estate in the Riksdag.

“Mister Mansson, I don’t understand your argument. This letter, signed by you, clearly shows involvement. You’ve accepted interest on state loans.” said the prosecutor.

“What I do on my own time is my own personal business; what I did was for the common man, whom people like you have forgotten,” Mansson said defiantly.

“That’s fine, sir, but you’ve used your public position for private benefit,” the prosecutor retorted. “Your signature on official State Bank letterhead is proof. This is embezzlement!”

“Let me see that paper!” Mansson demanded.

The prosecutor confidently crossed the floor of the grand hall in the Bonde Palace, holding the damning paper in the air so all of the Councilors of Justice could see it. He handed it to Mansson.

Mansson looked at the document for a moment and then gave the prosecutor a hard stare.

“This is what I think of your evidence ...” he said.

Before an astonished audience, he calmly tore the paper into two pieces, bent over and wiped them on his bottom. The court went into recess.

Before the verdict was reached, Mansson was already on the run with his mistress, heading across the ocean, far away from Sweden. He didn’t stop running until June 4th, 1859, when he reached Minnesota.

His flight from justice across the ocean was quickly forgotten. Conversely, the flight that his grandson made across the Atlantic Ocean sixty-eight years later would be remembered forever. And innocently, while piloting over Sweden in 1933, Charles A. Lindbergh commented, “I wonder why my folks ever left this place!”


Lord Haw Haw

Six million radios across England and Ireland crackled to life each night with “Jairmany calling! Jairmany calling!” A nasally voice echoed, “The Luftwaffe is on its way … better scurry into your holes like rats!” For almost 6 years, Lord Haw Haw’s nightly “Views on the News” broadcasts threatened the imminent destruction of the British Empire, often airing demoralizing recordings from British prisoners of war. His voice was terror.

His last broadcast was a taped recording originating in Hamburg as Berlin was under siege by the Red Army. He was noticeably drunk, and unrepentant. “Germany will live because the people of Germany have within them the secret of life: endurance, will and purpose. Ich liebe Deutschland. Heil Hitler and farewell,” he slurred. On this same day two hundred and fifty kilometers away in Berlin, the Führer bit into a cyanide capsule, placed his gun to his temple and pulled the trigger.

Four weeks later near the Dutch border, Lord Haw Haw was living as Wilhelm Hansen when he encountered two officers from the Royal Armoured Corps collecting kindling for a fire. Boldly, he approached and spoke to them first in French and then in English, “there are a few more pieces over here.” The officers immediately recognized his terrible voice. There was a gunshot and Lord Haw Haw fell to the ground, bleeding from the hip.

At 9 a.m. on January 3rd, 1946, Albert Pierrepoint, the Hangman at Wandsworth Prison, pulled the operating lever to the gallows. The trap door opened, and the rope fell the ten feet towards “the pit” and its shiny varnished floors. It stopped abruptly, snapping the neck of William Joyce as it did. Born American, raised Irish, naturalized German, and found guilty of treason as a British citizen, Lord Haw Haw’s voice was silenced forever.



“Baboso,” the young lieutenant-in-charge snarled through his teeth as he sped towards the plane that was taxiing to the end of the runway. In order to make a show of his anger, he purposely slammed the brakes, squealing the tires, when he reached it.

The twin-prop now sitting at the end of the Spanish military airfield on the evening of July 11th, 1936, had just made an unauthorized landing after a harrowing 10 hour journey from England. It had found its way to Espinho by road maps, nearly icing-up over the Pyrenees. Lieutenant Rojo didn’t care though, what story the pilot was going to spin for him. He had every intention of seizing the plane and arresting everyone aboard. This was no time for foolishness in his country. He started into a tirade of curses even before the door was opened.

The pilot stepped down from the plane first and got the worst of the tongue-lashing. It continued as four more men came behind him. The voice went silent though when two young, smiling women poked their heads through the opening. They giggled as they hopped onto the tarmac and Lieutenant Rojo removed his hat and gave a toothy grin.

After a few minutes of exaggerated graciousness and a lot of understanding nods, Lieutenant Rojo offered to escort the lost tourists to dinner at a hidden little restaurant in Porto, as long as they promised to depart quietly first thing in the morning.

The plane and its crew of “tourists” did depart the next morning, quietly. The de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide made several more unscheduled stops over the next eight days, ending in the Spanish Moroccan city of Tetuan, where General Francisco Franco hopped down and took command of the uprising against the new and vengeful republican government.



A week after the arrests, November 23, Senora Maria Valdes stood among a group of reporters with her back against a fence near an open window at the police headquarters where the priest had been taken. The priest's sister had also come and stood by Senora Valdes. She listened to shouted arguing coming from within.

"But surely you won't do this without a trial and official charges! He's a priest, these stupid people won't have it! Give me a few more days to draw up some paperwork!

"I don’t want paper! I want the deed! Do it now!"

Senora Valdes knew who spoke those words and what they meant. It didn't matter that there was no evidence of involvement in the plot. The priest was to be executed along with his brother and two others by order of the President.

"Oh, Cocol!" the priest's sister sobbed as she fell into the arms of Senora Valdes.

A commotion began as crowds started to gather around the police station. There were hundreds. Guards appeared at the fence, pushing back the people trying to get a glimpse of the condemned. A truck pulled up and five soldiers, rifles in hand, were ushered inside. Groups of people knelt to pray. Some shouted invectives at the guards, some at the priest. The noise became deafening.

Suddenly the roar of the crowd hushed and over the wall, from the courtyard of the police headquarters could be heard a man's voice, speaking loudly, almost happily. The crowd went still and listened.

"Viva Cristo Rey!" echoed clearly.

A volley of rifle shots rang out and then silence. Senora Valdes and Father Miguel Pro’s sister stood staring at each other, tears rolling down their cheeks. Another shot was heard, this one from a pistol, and the crowd erupted again.



Bernard-René de Launay was already severely beaten but it continued as he shouted, “Enough! Let me die!” De Launay and 114 grenadiers had traded volleys with the attackers for four hours before it became apparent that resistance was useless. He opened the gates of the Bastille and was immediately set upon. The Royal Army contingent stationed nearby turned their heads as the 1,000 strong force of rioters stormed the medieval fortress.

De Launay was being knocked senseless by the flurry of fists and clubs as they connected with his head and neck. He tried to keep his footing as he was pulled and jerked outside. Someone smashed the butt of a rifle into his temple and he fell sideways, slamming onto the hard stone walk. He blacked out and was dragged to the Hôtel de Ville. There, outside of the beautiful City Hall, as the mob argued violently over what to do with him, de Launay came to. Blood streamed from his nose and ears but he was thankful that the beating had stopped for the moment. He opened a swollen eye.

A pastry-baker by the name of Desnot noticed the prisoner stirring and straddled over him. From a near-toothless mouth he spat a thick wad of phlegm into de Launay’s face. Instinctively, de Launay shot his knee into the air and landed a solid blow against Desnot’s groin. His eyes rolled backwards and he collapsed with a squeak. Within seconds, a dozen knives plunged into the soft belly of de Launay. His head was viciously sawed off, stuck on a pike, and paraded through Paris.

On the evening of July 14th, 1789, six months before his execution at the guillotine, King Louis XVI returned from a day of hunting and ironically penned in his diary: “Rien” – “Nothing happened.”


An Ironic Ending

The card game being played in the dirty La Amapola bar on the 31st of January, 1976 was technically a violation of Ernesto’s parole and he kept glancing nervously at the door. He wasn’t going back to prison again. He emptied his beer, pulled a few dollars from the little pile of change on the bar and slid it to the bartender.

“Hey, vato, that’s not your money,” said one of the players, a very short Mexican with a tattoo of the Virgin of Guadalupe on his arm.

“Ay cállate,” Ernesto replied, “don’t be a sore loser.”

“You better put that money back, hijo. That’s my money,” the little man said again.

Ernesto turned on his stool as the man stood up and moved up to him. A second player also rose and shielded himself behind the first, looking over his shoulder. That man hadn’t said a word all evening and Ernesto was surprised to see him whisper something into the short man’s ear. He didn’t notice as that man pulled a six inch knife from his pants and slid it into the hand of the short one.

“Hold on, amigos, that money is …” Ernesto began, but was cut short when the quiet one said audibly, “¡Mátelo!”

And that he did. Two quick thrusts, once in the belly and once in the chest. Ernesto collapsed to the floor and the two men fled.

At the same time that Ernesto Miranda was pronounced dead at the hospital, a Phoenix police officer was chasing one of the suspects down an alley. Not the murderer, but his accomplice. It wasn’t long before he had him secured in the back of his patrol car and was reading to him from a little white rectangular card.

You have the right to remain silent …”


A Case of Natural Selection

Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise had been using the hulked ship as a station to monitor smuggling operations along the Essex coast. A little community of seven Coast Guard officers and their families called it home. Few of the residents however, knew anything about their home beyond the fact that it was one of the “Coffin Brigs” that were infamous for disappearing at sea. It wasn’t even recognizable from its former self; all of its original accoutrements had been removed, including its guns and masts.

None of the oystermen on the River Roach knew anything about the ship’s history either. All they knew was that it was in their way, and they wanted it moved. So, in 1851, “Watch Station Number Seven” was unceremoniously dragged onto the marshy beach where it sat for almost 20 more years.

None of the workmen for Murray and Trainer Scrapworks knew the history of the boat as they stripped its forecastle, wheelhouse, and decks of the still-solid timber that was to be used to build a farmhouse on the north bank.

None of the children of Burnham-on-Crouch knew anything about the half-submerged hull as they played Buccaneers of the Spanish Main on its remaining planks.

But there was one man living not so far away in Kent that knew a lot about the Cherokee class, 10-gun, brig-sloop. He knew that it was the first ship to pass under the new London Bridge in 1820 during the coronation of King George IV. He knew that it had traveled around the world three times, surveying the coasts of Australia, New Zealand, and South America on the way.

Charles Darwin knew the HMS Beagle inside and out. He even wrote about it in his little book that was to cause quite a stir on November 24th, 1859.


Change in the Weather

Only five more miles. Martin had already walked forty and his legs were aching. He was hoping to find a nice place to stop and eat the bread his mother packed for him back in Mansfeld. It had threatened rain all day but it wasn’t until he was on the edge of the little village of Stotternheim that the skies finally opened up. A long and rolling growl of thunder echoed across the field and the rain came down like a waterfall.

He was drenched but his first concern was for the schoolbooks in his satchel – Aristotle, William of Ockham, and Gabriel Biel. He couldn’t afford to replace them if they were ruined. Off to the southwest, Martin spotted a small stand of trees and began to run for them. That’s when the first lightning bolt hit. Behind him, close enough to smell it, followed by a clap of thunder that rang in his ears like church-bells.

Martin had always been afraid of lightning, helpless against it. As a child, he would hide under his bed and pray for the saints to deliver him from the supernatural evil. Now, as he ran terrified through the mud and knee-high grass, he felt like a little child again, fleeing from the devil at his heels. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end as a second bolt struck even nearer.

Martin reached the sheltering trees and fell into a ball at the base of the biggest one. He was crying now, thinking about death, judgment, heaven, and hell.

“Help!” he cried, “Saint Anna! I will become a monk!”

On July 17th, 1505, Martin Luther told his friends at the College of St. George at Erfurt University, “This day you see me, and then, not ever again.”

Not quite so.


Pulling a Brodie

There was no other way to put it: Steve was pie-eyed. His pant-leg was caught on the fence and he hopped comically trying to free himself. He was flapping his arms like a goony-bird in an effort to keep his balance. Finally, his pants ripped and he reeled and fell flat on his back. Passersby gave him a wide birth as he lay there groaning, legs akimbo. His partner-in-crime stood over him, hands in his pockets, shaking his head.

“Forget it, Steve. Let’s just go have another drink. Call it even.”

But Steve wasn’t having it, a bet was a bet.

“Not a chance …”

Steve slowly rolled over to his side, pulled his knee under him, and grabbed hold of the wrought iron railing. He stayed in that position, swaying back and forth like a praying mantis, for a full minute before he staggered to his feet.

“Two hundred dollars,” he said to his friend and began to climb again.

This time he made it. He was on the other side now.

He stood there with his back against the fence, eyes closed, his hands in a death-grip around the railing. The color had drained from his face and he was perspiring.

His friend, seeing that he might actually go through with it, said “Hey, you don’t look so good … come on, you’ve proved your point.”

Steve turned his head and shot one bloodshot eye toward his pal, “You meet me back at the pub with my two hundred dollars,” he said, and took one giant step forward.

So it was on July 23rd, 1886, that Steve Brodie, an unknown bookie from the Bowery, made his claim to fame by living to collect his winnings after jumping from the Brooklyn Bridge, 135 feet down into the East River.


The Merger

“There will be changes when I return,” were his parting words on the 29th of October and Miltiades knew exactly they meant. The past two days had been a whirlwind for the old arthritic. The miracle at Milvian Bridge was still fresh in his thoughts. He lay down on a soft bed in his new home and closed his eyes. It felt so sweet compared to the hard board he slept on the night before but his mind still wouldn’t rest. “Is this really what He wants?” he asked himself over and over. It was all very tempting. Property would be restored … no more hiding … no more pain. He was so tired. They all were, after more than two centuries of waiting and hoping.

After several restless minutes, he turned and let his knotted legs slide over the edge of the cushions until his dirty bare feet hit the floor. In a pouch hanging from the cord around his waist was a large and misshapen iron nail. He reached inside and pushed a finger against the bent point. It hurt. He pushed harder. “No!” he said aloud, “this is not how it will be. These gifts are one thing, but I’ll never accept what will inevitably come after he returns … We must get our house in order before the persecutions begin again. This is not how it will be!”

When Constantine finally did return sixteen months later, Miltiades, the Bishop of Rome was already at peace in the catacombs beneath the city. A new court was convened and Constantine gave his approval for a much younger man named Silvester to serve as successor to Peter. Where Miltiades saw danger, Silvester saw opportunity and followed it. For the first time, the Pope would be crowned as a Prince.


Wet Foot, Dry Foot

One thousand three hundred and seventy three men and women were a very long way from Portsmouth. All eleven ships were in the harbor now, the last two just rounding the southern point. Every passenger leaned over the rails and eyed the sparkling dunes that gently rose into thick forest, broken only by a rocky stream of fresh water that spilled carelessly into the cove. The sight was stunning. Paradise. Fifteen thousand miles were behind them and all that was left was the short trip to the welcoming beach. The HMS Supply was lowering her small boats as she was the first in and had already been at anchor for a few hours.

In the first launch, the ranking officer was directing the crew as to their duties. “Mr. Alt, I think you already know you’ll be setting up your first survey at the mouth of the stream. Bloodworth, you carry these bins – and no lip – I want it done orderly. And you … James is it? Get yourself up to the bow here and give a hand.”

As the water became shallow and the keel lurched across bars of sand, the oars were raised and James followed orders and slipped over the side. The water was about knee-deep and little fish tickled his ankles as his toes sunk into the soft bottom. It didn’t take long before 165 pounds of cargo was secured on his back and he was duck-walking his way to shore.

Right before the convict James Ruse’s feet hit dry land, he dropped to his knees. He wasn’t giving thanks for having made the arduous journey; he was letting the man off of his back. Lieutenant George Johnston hopped down, became the first officer ashore and claimed Australia for King George III on January 26th, 1788.


Burley Tobacco

A light in the window above the stairwell advertised that the Tudor-style cottage at the end of Turl Street had not been completely vacated for the holidays. The window was slightly ajar, and every now and again a puff of smoke was seen wafting over the sill and mixing with foggy mist outside. Muffled laughs and shouts dispersed into the chill night.

“If it’s January 4th, 1913 here at Exeter College,” asked Ronald, “what time is it in Kentucky?”

“Yer sloshed, Ronald,” said Allen.

“Aaaah, tell it to the Jzzhermans …” Ronald slurred.

“Tell ‘em yerself … I reckon you’ll have the chance before long,” Allen replied but immediately regretted stating what was by now becoming horrifically obvious.

“Well, you certainly know how to crash a party, Yank.”

Ronald stood up and walked to the fireplace. He fished out a splinter of wood that still had a flicker of flame on its end and he held it to his pipe. “How ‘bout you tellin’ me ‘bout those neighbors of yours again? I can never get enough of it. Solid English names!”

“Who? The Maggots? The Boffins? The Proudfoots? Or is it Proud “feet” when there’s more than one? I can’t remember … The Tooks? The Brandybucks?”

“Noooo, the other ones … the ones with the big tobacco barns … with the boys who refused to wear shoes … went everywhere barefoot … with the funny name.”

“You’ve just described my whole town, Ronald …” Allen said dryly.

“… the old fellow … who invented that grand new number. What was it now? Aye! Yes! Eleven-teen!” Ronald yelled out.

“Oh! That’s Mr. Frodo you’re speaking of then!” and Allen Barrett once again spent the rest of the evening regaling his friend J. R. R. Tolkien with his tales from Shelbyville, Kentucky.


The Minstrel Knight

Ivo sang of Charlemagne as he pressed his heels into the sides of his mount and slowly trotted the base of the hill at Santlache. He drew a sword from its sheath and twirled it in his hand as he rode. The bright morning sun shimmered against the virginity of the spinning blade and made it look like a rod of fire. Ivo noticed the effect and was enamored with it. He twirled faster and urged his horse into a canter.

Now Ivo was singing of Olivier and he was directing himself zig-zag up the hill. Ivo was still spinning his sword and began tossing it lightly into the air as he did. He could hear voices below starting to sing along with him, which caused him to amplify his performance even more. He tossed his sword high into the air and it flipped end over end two times before he caught it flat in his open palm. Cheers came from behind him and Ivo moved into a slow gallop, edging more into a straight line towards the peak of the hill.

At the top of his lungs, Ivo sang of Roland. Eight thousand voices joined in and pushed at his back as his steed snorted and dug into the escalating ground. At full gallop, Ivo held his arm straight out to the side and balanced his blade by the quillon, supporting it on just one finger.

At the third hour, Ivo Taillefer rode into the mass of infantry. He flipped the sword into his grip and raised it into attack position. The last word that the English soldiers heard was “Durendal!” before the air moaned with the flights of two thousand Norman arrows.

It was October 14th, 1066, the last time that England would ever fall to foreign invasion.


with Signs Following

The sixth of July, 1909 was a hot one in the Grasshopper Valley of Tennessee and George sweat profusely as he purposefully stepped his way to the top of White Oak Mountain. He didn’t notice the heat though; his mind was spinning with the Holy Spirit. “And they shall take up serpents ...” he intoned to himself in a trance. “And they shall take up serpents …”

As the slope of his path diminished and he neared the top, a great rock loomed before him, cleft on the side as if split by the wrath of an angry God. It sparkled red and blue and green under the rays of light fingering through the boughs overhead. George fell to his knees and clasped his hands above his head. “Jeeeezus! Jeeeezus!” he implored, raising his eyes towards the heavens. “Anoint me with the Holy Spirit! Take my fears from my heart, Jeeeezus! Give me a sign! Behold, give unto me the power to tread on serpents and nothing shall by any means hurt me!”

George rose and moved quickly towards the chasm in the rock. The bone-chilling warning of a Timber rattler echoed from the walls of its enclosure. In the blink of an eye, George had the snake in his grasp, four fingers under the jaw and his thumb pressing down upon the back of it’s head. At first, the serpent writhed and coiled wildly around George’s arms but it soon became calm and George relaxed his grip. He felt the spirit moving in him now. “Signs and wonders!” he shouted at the top of his lungs. “Praize Jeeeezus! Amen! Signs and wonders!”

He inhaled a deep breath of fresh mountain air and started back the ten miles towards his Church of God. “Signs will follow”, George Hensley said quietly.